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Hunger haunts ART patients

By Mirirai Nsingo / Published on Friday, 14 Oct 2016 14:23 PM / No Comments / 626 views

14 October 2016

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Charles Mushonga

PEOPLE living with HIV in Makoni District have said hunger was their greatest challenge with fears that it could be an impediment to adherence of anti-retroviral treatment.

Amid food insecurity due to the effects of El Nino, people living with HIV have been affected the most as the medicines are quite toxic and demand a balanced diet according to a health worker in Makoni District.

While efforts have been made to make anti-retroviral treatment accessible and available, a villager in Fairfield in Makoni said hunger was really haunting them.

“While the default cases seem to have gone down due to the Community ART refill Groups (CAGs), hunger is now the greatest challenge that we are facing and my fear is that it can reverse the adherence gains.

“We all know that you cannot take treatment in an empty stomach but this is our daily headache, what do I eat before taking my medication.

“I know hunger is also affecting everyone including those who are not living positive with the virus but the problem is worse for us because of the treatment,” said Charles Mushonga.

Another villager living with the virus from the same district concurred that hunger had worsened their plight as she called on the Government to intervene.

“While the Government and its health partners has ensured that treatment is accessible, they seem to have neglected us and forgotten the nutritional aspect. We are really starving and sometimes you dread to take your medication knowing that you have not had anything to eat.

“While we were really taught on issues of adherence and positive living, with no proper nutrition, there is no positive living and this is a threat to adherence hence the need for a serious intervention,” added Viola Makoni.

According to the National AIDS Council, ART programme in Zimbabwe started in April 2004 with the objective of reducing morbidity and mortality due to HIV and AIDS; and improve the quality of life of people living with HIV.

The villagers argue that ART might fail to improve their quality of life if hunger continues to haunt them hence the call for Government interventions.

While 1,4 million people are estimated to be living with HIV in the country, the number is set to double as the country adopts the World Health Organisation’s latest guidelines to test and treat to achieve the United Nations AIDS programme’s ambitious 90-90-90 target.

The UNAIDS targets seeks to have 90 percent of all people living HIV knowing their HIV status, 90 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy while 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression by 2020.

While the number of people living with HIV is set to double as the country moves towards achieving the UNAIDS targets, World Food Programme estimates that the number of people in need of food assistance in Zimbabwe could be more than 2, 4 million.

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