Uganda’s NDA found HIV drugs in meat but didn’t issue warning
In 2014, Uganda’s National Drug Authority acknowledged that it was aware of the usage of HIV medication to enhance the growth of animals, such as pigs and chickens, but refrained from alerting the public.
Amos Atumanya, the senior drugs inspector at the regulatory body, informed the parliament that they had become aware of the administration of anti-retroviral drugs to animals for therapeutic purposes.
Mr. Atumanya expressed concern that the consumption of even small amounts of these drugs in food could pose risks to humans. However, the NDA has attempted to downplay his statements, with a spokesperson asserting that they would have issued a warning if there were health risks.
They clarified that the NDA’s primary role is to regulate drugs rather than food or animal feed.
A recent study by Makerere University revealed that over one-third of tested chicken and 50% of pork contained traces of anti-retroviral drugs. The meat was sourced from markets in Kampala, the capital, and the city of Lira in the north.
While testifying before Uganda’s House Committee on HIV/AIDS, Mr. Atumanya disclosed that the National Drug Authority had conducted an investigation in 2014 into the use of antiretrovirals (ARVs) in animal farming.
However, despite publishing a report, they refrained from issuing a public warning, fearing potential harm to the country’s food exports if the matter was exaggerated.
According to one participant in the Makerere University study, pigs treated with anti-retroviral drugs “grow faster and larger, leading to quicker sales.” Nevertheless, Mr. Atumanya emphasized the potential grave consequences for humans who consume such meat and subsequently contract HIV.
“You are likely to develop resistance to these ARVs,” he said. “In the future, if you need them, then you’ll find this ARV is not working for some.”
Around 1.4 million people in Uganda are living with HIV/Aids, according to the United Nations.
The NDA’s report back in 2014, found that antiretrovirals were mainly used to treat African swine fever which is also known as Pig Ebola and currently has no cure. It also verified claims that ARVs were being used to treat Newcastle disease in chickens.
Following Mr. Atumanya’s remarks, however, a spokesman for the NDA defended its decision to not publicize its findings.
“The NDA is mandated to regulate the drugs, not food or animal feeds,” he said.
“If there was any public health threat concerning the drugs under use, NDA will be the first one to come out and warn the public as we always do.
“The NDA remains vigilant and committed to ensuring that Ugandans have access to safe, efficacious and quality medicines.”
He added that the regulator had launched several actions to stop the misuse of drugs, which led to several arrests and prosecution.