Associated Press (12.22.11) - Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Many poor HIV/AIDS patients in Kenya are struggling with food
security issues that threaten their health, experts say.
Annual inflation in Kenya is about 20 percent, and wages have
not kept pace. Staple food prices in 2011 were almost twice
their 2009 levels, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
Kenyan patients say antiretroviral therapy can cause nausea,
fatigue, and diarrhea at first, especially if the pills are
taken without food, said Kate Greenaway, a nutritionist with
Catholic Relief Services. At a CRS clinic in the Mathare slum,
some patients are delaying treatment, and about a quarter of
the 1,555 patients on therapy are skipping doses, said
Valerian Kamito, a clinic nurse.
"They say they cannot take them on an empty stomach," Kamito
said. Before food prices rose, "it was very rare," he said.
The clinic gives 400 of its patients food so they can continue
treatment, but most take the meals home to share with their
families, says Kamito. The program's waiting list is long, and
the financial crisis means there is no money to expand it. The
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria has no funding for
new or expanded programs until 2014.
About 20 percent to 30 percent of HIV patients in developing
countries will drop out in the first two years of treatment,
said Nils Grede, deputy chief of the World Food Program's
nutrition and HIV/AIDS unit.
"Barriers to continue the treatment ... are often related to
poverty," Grede said. "You don't have the money to pay for the
bus, you don't have enough food, so you spend your time on
trying to make sure that your family eats."
"People adhere much better to drug regimens when there is
food," Greenaway said. "But in poor families, that might mean
mothers who want to stay strong have to decide whether to take
something from their children's plates."