University of KwaZulu-Natal master’s graduate, Ms Bontle Segobe, delved into the drug, whoonga, and the risky sexual behaviour associated with it.
Segobe graduated with a master’s in Populations Studies following her research into substance abuse (whoonga) and risky sexual behaviour of drug addicts in Durban.
‘I chose this topic because of a close friend who has been struggling to quit Whoonga for many years. I wanted to understand the perspective and experience of Whoonga users,’ said Segobe.
She explained that whoonga was a mixture of the antiretroviral drugs, dagga (marijuana) or heroin and several other substances, including chemicals found in detergents and even rat poison.
‘South African youth have been experimenting with drugs by creating new and even more dangerous drugs. This has led to young people engaging in risky sexual behaviour while under the influence.
‘If substance use leads to unsafe sexual activity, understanding the dynamics of this relationship could contribute towards the research on educational and preventative efforts to contain the spread of HIV, as well as the rapid increase in unwanted pregnancies,’ said Segobe.
Her study found that most young people, especially women engage in risky sexual behaviour to obtain money or drugs to feed their addiction. ‘All Whoonga addicts think about is when and how to get money for their next bag of Whoonga,’ she said.
She said little research has been done on the relationship between Whoonga use and risky sexual behaviours among young previously active users, therefore she believes her study will bridge that gap.
Segobe thanked her supervisor Professor Pranitha Maharaj, family and friends for their love and support.
She plans to enrol for a PhD in Populations studies and continue her research into the use of Whoonga in South Africa.
Her advice to other researchers was to choose a topic that was close to their heart and what they were passionate about.