Food situation Kenya:HIV

Despite the recent reports on famine and drought in the country, our Kenyan politicians seem not in any way concerned about those living with HIV. Instead, they are more concerned with whether they should pay taxes or not.

This week in one of the daily newspapers, it was reported that close to 200,000 livestock have died in the last 3 months. The families affected rely on animal husbandry as their source of livelihood. How do we expect these families to recover their loss?

In my view, this should awaken our policy makers. However, I’m yet to hear of any our Kenyan politicians and other policy makers bring this topic up for discussion.

In as much as the general population is also affected by the hiked food prices and famine (in some areas), those infected with HIV continue to suffer in silence.

Have we even taken time to consider the child headed households out there who besides being HIV positive, also have to forego their childhood so as to earn a living?

HIV and Food in Kenya

Those tested HIV positive are encouraged to have a balance diet. Reason being that one’s immunity is also boosted through proper diet other than just adhering to ARVs. This is also true for those who are HIV negative. In that those HIV negatives, are required to eat a balanced diet so as to wade off infections.

As a nation, we have seen a rise in HIV positive patients enrolled into HIV care programs. However, we risk loosing these gains. Reason being, many Kenyans are struggling to put food on their table.

This means that we will with time see a rise in the number of HIV positive patients succumbing to opportunistic infections associated with HIV and AIDS; loosing their jobs due to lack of concentration at work; and in the worst case scenario, defaulting on ARVs.

The Government therefore ought to develop measures on how to mitigate the effects of famine on those living with HIV.

Implication of the food situation  in Kenyan on HIV response

It will not be surprising if we start witnessing cases where HIV positive clients start selling their ARVs for food. Who can blame them for resorting to this life threatening measure, especially those who are breadwinners in their families?

Those who default on the ARV for lack of food pose a great threat to their partners. This is so because of the increase in one’s viral load due to lack of adherence on the therapy, and in turn a rise to opportunistic infections.

There will also be an upsurge in cases of TB infection and co-infection amongst this population. Anyone who has even suffered from TB or has lived with a TB patient will tell you that no one can adhere to the TB drugs without eating well. And TB as we all know affect those with weak immunities. Most Kenyans as write this now are very susceptible to TB infection due to poor eating habits and lack of sufficient food.

HIV Couple discordancy and food scarcity

Gains made in addressing couple discordancy in Kenya will be lost due to food shortage.

The cause for this is that those HIV negative in the discordant relationship will be exposed to infections by their partners who default on ARV s for lack of food.

This is mostly true in cases where it’s the man in the relationship who is HIV positive and also the family bread winner. Chances of this person forgoing ARVs are also high, as he is expected by his family and society at large to work hard so as to provide for all his family’s basic needs.

Violence in such relationships cannot be avoided due to the high stress levels the couple may experience.

HIV:To the policy makers in Kenya

The time to ACT is NOW in order for the entire nation to safeguard the health rights of those living with HIV

HIV: To the general public

As we lobby for the corrupt officials to vacate office; for prices of maize meal flour to be reduced, etc we should also start lobbying for the government to develop measures to:

  • Protect the basic and health rights of those living with HIV in Kenya
  • To develop financial policies to minimise the current inflation.

HIV: To those HIV positive

There is need to look for avenues through which cheap and quality food can be obtained. Do not any whatever cost default on your HIV therapy.

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