Katakwi — Leaders in Katakwi District are investigating reports that anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) are being used for preserving local brew (Ajon) and distilling crude waragi in Magoro Sub-county.
Mr Kizito Okello, the Apeero Village chairperson in Magoro, told Daily Monitor at the weekend that he had received reports indicating that sellers of the brew use the drug for preservation to avoid incurring losses.
"Previously, I knew that Panadol was used for preserving local brew, now it is ARVs," Mr Okello said.
He said some people engaged in the act do not take their ARVs.
Mr Julius Angedu, the officer-in-charge of Magoro Health Centre III, said: "Those drugs are not sold in open markets, they are offered to only people living positively, with a proven record of taking their drugs."
He said there has not been any evidence about the reports, adding that they are also carrying out their own investigation.
Asked about how many people are on ARVs in Magoro, Mr Angedu said such information is confidential but said the drugs are harmful to HIV-negative people.
"The drug boosts the immune system, and to give it to those living negatively, it undermines their immunity and sometimes interferes with the body organs," he said.
Mr Angedu said the side effects of ARVs include vomiting and nausea, but added that he is yet to find out whether people treated for taking such brew had such signs.
Mr James Alemu Omongot, the sub-county chairperson, said, he had not yet heard about the claims.
"I enjoy Ajon, but I have not come across that suspicious liquor, perhaps it is in Magoro Trading Centre but we here in Opeta Parish, the liquor given to us has not presented such suspicious signs and smell," he said.
Mr Sam Amali, the district health officer, said he would engage his team in the area to establish the claims.
"There is no compromise, unless it is those who abscond from adhering on the use of the drug that are using ARVS for such purposes," he added.
Many communities in the area brew Ajon as a business to sustain their families.
Ms Grace Akiteng, a dealer in the brew, said authorities should subject all those in the trade to compulsory HIV testing so that investigations focus on those who are living positively.
Last year, it was reported that some residents of Kitgum District were using ARV drugs in brewing alcohol and enhancing the weight of domestic animals.
Local leaders said the residents would mix the drugs with animal feeds to fatten pigs and chicken so that they attract high prices.
Fr Julius Odeng of St Simon Catholic Church Magoro Sub-county, in his Sunday message recently urged all Christians who drink to report the cases to health workers and local leaders. "These drugs are given to you to preserve life, this is wastage, and putting our lives at risk," Fr Odeng said.