As governments, organizations and well-wishers continue to work very hard to provide life-prolonging Anti Retroviral (ARV) drugs to AIDS patients, some folks in Malawi have other ideas. According to the Malawi News article of 3 November 2009, ARVs are being used to distil locally brewed liquor popularly known as ‘kachasu’ in Thyolo District. These drugs are also being used in livestock feeds to make the animals grow faster.

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aidsReports indicate that an ordinary kachasu brewing process, fermentation of the ingredients which include maize husks and sugar takes place after three days. But when ARVs have been used, the fermentation takes place within 24 hours, which allows kachasu makers to produce more in a short time and therefore make more money.

It is further reported that ARVs require less quantities of sugar. With one tablet of ARVs, distillers are using one packet of sugar to produce eight litres. In the normal process,  four packets of sugar would give five or six litres of kachasu.

To say the least, this is a very sad development. It must be stopped forthwith. Traditional leaders and the general public must help to ensure that people in their areas do not misuse these precious drugs.

One village headman in the area is on record as saying that he had heard about distillers using ARVs to make kachasu for the past two years now.When quizzed further he said he cannot pinpoint the culprits because it is a sensitive matter and such people cannot come out in the open. Really?

I am sure village headman knows all kachasu brewers in his area. Places where kachasu is brewed and sold are patronized by a large number of imbibers who are characterized by high decibels of noise. These places are more or less public. It has been reported that the taste of ARV kachasu is very different from that of the normal one. If village headman was responsible enough, he should have visited these places when business is in full swing to find out, by tasting, if they were selling ARV kachasu. If he is not into alcohol himself, he should have sent his agents to find out for him. Having known the culprits,  he should have, first of all, warned them. But if they continued with the malpractice, the police should have been informed to do their work.

Some of the people in the area say that kachasu from ARVs is not nice. It has a funny smell. When they take it, they have problems rising from bed in the morning because they are in severe pains all over.

This practice is, therefore, creating health problems on two groups of people: the AIDS patients who are being deprived (or is it depriving themselves?) of drugs and the imbibers who are suffering from the effects of this kind of kachasu.