Drought: Starving HIV+ villagers say can’t take meds on empty stomachs

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PEOPLE living with HIV in Mudzi, Mashonaland East provice, say they are struggling with serious food shortages that have made it difficult to take their daily anti-retroviral (ARVs) drugs, leaving many at risk of defaulting.

The province experienced a severe drought this season, resulting in crops wilting and villagers’ livestock succumbing to the inclement weather conditions.

People living with HIV need at least three meals a day, but the crop failure has left locals without much-needed nutritious foods, posing an additional challenge to their already fragile health.  

Mazviita Moyo, a member of the Community ART Refill Group (CARG), said the situation was dire and appealed for urgent assistance.

CARG brings together people willing to disclose their HIV status to each other in groups of 4-10 people with support services provided by nurses and counsellors.

“The situation is so bad that getting just a meal a day would be a huge blessing. It’s even worse when you are known to be living with HIV as some neighbours shut their doors on you,” said Moyo.

“We can’t even get part time jobs because you won’t perform well with an empty stomach. Those that have tried collapsed because of hunger.”

Another villager, Marvis Katsande, said gone are the days when local churches used to give them food hand-outs.

“They just stopped, and we don’t even know why; and as far as adherence to the ARV therapy is concerned, we can’t as we spend most of our time begging for food,” said Katsande.

“Without nutritious food to boost our blood cells we no longer safe from other diseases and opportunistic infections that take advantage of our condition.”

The locals are now appealing to National Aids Council (NAC) and the Social Welfare department to assist them in getting food supplements.