HIV/Aids

Updated 14 July 2017

Why sharing ARVs is dangerous

Many people think that taking another person's HIV/Aids medication is okay, because the HIV virus is the same, but nothing could be further from the truth.

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When Philip Madonsela’s HIV positive partner Duduzile Gumede defaulted on her antiretroviral therapy (ART) he was surprised to discover that she stopped collecting her medication from the clinic because she was taking their daughter’s treatment.

“At first I couldn’t understand why she was losing weight and getting sicker. Our daughter is also on ARTs. When I asked Duduzile why she was so sick, she kept on telling me that it was the side effects of the ARTs.

Then recently she suffered a stroke and I had to rush her to Rob Ferrari Hospital. That’s when I finally learned the truth – that she was not taking her own ARTs, but was taking the medication for her daughter.”

A Health24 article explains that if antiretroviral drugs are not taken exactly as prescribed on a regular basis, the patient may become resistant to the medication. When this happens, the medication does not effectively suppress the virus.

'I knew I defaulted'

Gumede explained: “With my working hours and not having time to go to the clinic, I honestly didn’t think that sharing my daughter’s ART was wrong, or that it would harm me because we are both living with the HIV virus.

But when I noticed the changes, that I was getting sick, I was afraid to go back to the clinic for further help because I knew I defaulted.”

She did not foresee what could happen – that should would get sick, suffer a stroke and come close to death.

Gumede’s sister Phumzile Gumede said, “As she lied to her partner, our whole family was lied to in the same way. She would pretend to collect her ARTs every month. To be honest, we are more worried about the innocent child because if Duduzile was taking her ARTs, what was going to happen to her?

'It was a stupid thing to do'

I asked my sister to show me her ART pack but to my surprise she went inside her house and come out with her daughter’s ARTs. I shouted at her and asked, ‘Why do you want to die?’ and she didn’t reply.”

Gumede now sees her stroke as a warning and a second chance to do things right.

“We all deserve to live longer. It may seem impossible, but with the help and support of community workers from Simunye HBC (home based care) I will not default again. I now understand that I should have not stopped collecting my ART or taking my child’s treatment because It was a stupid thing to do.”

Zodwa Mbele from Simunye HBC said “The are many similar cases where people think sharing their treatment is okay, because they think their HIV virus is the same. My advice to all people living with HIV is to never share their ARTs. It is better to ask for help and advice from health workers than to be sorry later.” – Health-e News.

Read more:

HIV medication side effects

HIV/AIDS: opportunistic infections

HIV/Aids and nutrition

 

Ask the Expert

HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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