Food shortage may lead to death and drug resistance for PLWA in Teso sub-region
HIV-positive patients in drought-hit eastern Uganda are abandoning their anti-retroviral regimens in droves, and leaders fear that unless more food becomes available, they will soon be dealing with drug resistance and death.
“If the government doesn’t address the food crisis, many of us who are on ARVs are going to die,” said Stella, a NACWOLA member at Katakwi district.
A total of 17 districts in northwestern, northeastern and eastern Uganda have been listed as worst-hit by a nationwide drought, and another 31 districts are experiencing “acute food shortages” while four districts have been evaluated as “moderately affected.” A prolonged dry spell has withered the region’s traditional crops, leaving hundreds of thousands of people hungry, many surviving on a diet of bought maize meal rather than a balanced diet.
Those most affected are PLWA on ARVs. This famine has destructed antiretroviral therapy (ART) trends in the country. An estimated 180,000 individuals are currently on ART, which is only a fraction of the estimated 360,000 people in need of ARVs.
In an assessment by National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (NACWOLA) in Teso a sub-region in eastern Uganda, it was found that HIV/AIDS patients in the region take their ARV drugs on the understanding of food being available. In the absence of food, many stop taking their ARVs, putting their lives at risk. TB drugs and ARVs are very strong; if taken without food, they cause dizziness and general body weakness.
“When you take these drugs without eating, they make you weak and reduce your strength – you feel like vomiting,” said,Jemina NACWOLA Soroti Chairperson District.
The government has spent an estimated US$10 million on food for the Teso sub-region, however not all needs have been met.
“The food being given to our people is just a drop in the ocean,” said Patrick Amuriat, chairman of Teso Parliamentary Group. “What can one cup of beans and two of posho [maize flour] do? It’s just for one meal.”
The National community of women living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda NACWOLA calls upon Government to provide sufficient food to the people to reduce some side-effects of ARVs and promote adherence to drug regimens. The government to do all that it takes to increase the supply of food in this region and more so to the HIV/AIDS people. To set a criteria for giving out food in the region giving special attention and priority to people living with HIV/AIDS and more so those on either ARVs or TB treatment.
Civil society organization are called upon to carry out sensitization and encouraging clients on ARVs to continue taking the drugs because if they default, this will build resistance to drugs which can be another difficult condition to deal with in the future? It’s a choice of life or death that our members have to take.
For PLWA are called upon to continue taking the ARVs/TB drugs and seek medical advice before discontinuing medication.
How Uganda’s food shortage is affecting ART and TB treatment.
Uganda is one of the very few countries around the world that is recorded to have brought a generalized epidemic under control. From a prevalence rate of 18% among the adult population in 1992, today the prevalence rate is ranging between 6.3 and 6.7%.
It is estimated that 180,000 individuals are currently on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the country. However, this is only a fraction of the estimated 360,000 people in need of ARVs. It is now generally believed that new infections are re-emerging and the number of people being infected annually is more than the number of people put on ART in the same period.
My name is Sarah Ndagire, yes I have been affected we used to get food from NACWOLA but we no longer get food. They told us that, World Food no longer gives food due to the economic crisis; they have also stopped some projects that used to help us with income generating activities they told us that the donors have cut the amount of money they give; that has had a challenge with my life. Am on treatment, my body is weak, I do not know how am going to survive. I have children to pay fees for; the sponsors have stopped the payment of the fees. It is painful for me to see my children not going to school.
Am a teacher, I have not been paid for two months; the pupils have not paid the fees; so I cannot get my salary yet; until the money is colleted. The parents are saying they cannot pay in time because they do not have the money to pay and they are blaming this to the credit crunch which has affected what they do. This means I cannot also buy all that I need in time so am really affected by the credit crutch. Well it is hard to tell if this is the effect, but that is what I am told. Nakanyike Stephan.
“Global financial crisis” Is a very common word these days to explain a lot of situations that have got something to do with money in Uganda.Yesterday I wanted to get a tax man to take me to one of the hotels at the city centre; he told me a price, which I thought, was not realistic. When I challenged him he said “Credit Crunch” and I asked him “what about it well?” He could not explain; but he said “e bintu birinye” Meaning prices have gone high.He reduced the price, and as he drove me to the hotel I contemplated on what he actually meant by saying prices have gone up.This morning I visited a number of women living with HIV/AIDS I asked them what their experiences are about the Credit Crunch.