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Extreme hunger compounds suffering for those with AIDS

I paid a visit to one of the very remote rural health centres today. The centre is a long drive from Binga centre along a horrible road. There are some incredibly rough and rocky stretches that often shred our tyres and then in other places the road is muddy and very slippery when it rains.  Today it didn’t just rain, it was torrential, and the journey took even longer than usual, a full three hours!

When we eventually reached the centre I meet with the sister in charge and her colleague who is running the home-based care programmes in the vicinity. The home-based care programme has over 100 community volunteers who visit people who are very ill with AIDS in their community. They help the family members to care for the patient and also give moral support to the sick person and the family.

The nurse and her colleague told me that now that anti-retroviral drugs are now available in the district more and more people are coming forward for testing. This is a massive step forward in and around areas like theirs which is very traditional, and there is still a lot of stigma around HIV.

Sadly, they reported that many of the people who have started treatment have defaulted because they have no food to eat. ARVs need to be taken on a full stomach or the side effects are very unpleasant in the first months of treatment. The food situation in the district is so severe that many of the people on treatment go without food for days on end and can’t tolerate the side effects.

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