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Anti-Retrovirals but No Food 0

Silindiwe Moyana, an HIV positive mother of five from Chipinge east of Zimbabwe, cannot hide her anxiety. She was worried she might not survive this year as drought-induced starvation stalks her and her family. The country is in the throes of a devastating drought which has compromised the nutrition of people living with HIV.

Experts have linked the current drought to El Nino. It has occurred just when the country is still smarting from the earlier drought that hit the 2014/15 farming season. “We have anti-retroviral drugs but we don’t have food,” Moyana said dejectedly. And she added: “Water for drinking is now very scarce too. Nutrition is very important for people who are taking anti-retroviral drugs, but we have no food. We are facing serious challenges.”

With an estimated 1.2 million HIV positive people, Zimbabwe is one of the countries in Africa heavily burdened by this pandemic. The country has historically had one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world, but has been commended in recent years for its success in reducing infection rates.

In 2013, the Global Fund granted Zimbabwe US$555 million to support anti-retroviral treatment for more than one million people between 2014 and 2016. And currently more than 700,000 HIV positive Zimbabweans are on the government’s free anti-retroviral treatment programme. But there are already fears that the gains scored on the back of the nationwide free anti-retroviral therapy might be eroded by the current drought.

Up to 2.4 million people in the country are food insecure this year, according to figures released by the government in February this year. The Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV/Aids coordinator for Manicaland province, Lloyd Dembure said the current drought had affected a large number of people living with HIV.

He elaborated that though many people living HIV had access to free anti-retroviral drugs many where going for days without a proper meal: “The situation is bad. The bulk of our members are poor and they can’t take anti-retroviral drugs on empty stomachs. It might force other people quit these drugs altogether.”

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by Andrew Mambondiyani

Photo Credits Andrew Mambondiyani/IPS News

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi