GOVERNMENT has been urged to ensure that the thousands of people on anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy get access to food at all times in the face of the current devastating drought as drugs taken by people living with HIV require a consistent diet.
BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
Zimbabwe HIV and Aids Activist Union Community Trust president Stanley Takaona told NewsDay that ARVs have to be taken with food and the current food shortages could result in many people skipping the life-prolonging drugs which cannot be taken on empty stomachs.
Takaona said government and other stakeholders should immediately come on board to provide food relief to people taking ARVs as food shortages could result in some of them opting to discontinue treatment thereby jeopardising their health.
“If you take the drugs today, you cannot take more in 24 hours before you take some food. Most people will likely discontinue if they fail to access food aid,” he said.
“We have made this observation after touring Matabeleland. We discovered a lot of people do not have food supplements and they are finding it difficult to continue taking the drugs before they have some food. It is a disaster.”
Zimbabwe is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in many years with three million people reportedly in need of food aid.
The country requires about $1,6 billion in food aid and President Robert Mugabe has already declared the drought a state of national disaster.
Takaona said people living with HIV were not prioritised when government distributed food relief, saying only orphans and the elderly were catered for.
He said the situation was worse for people on second line drugs as they would be forced to discontinue treatment due to unavailability of food as they would not be able to access expensive and still scarce third line drugs.
Takaona also urged people living with HIV to come out in the open to get prioritised for assistance.