Most of the affected persons are the elderly, children and Persons living with HIV and AIDS, many of whom have now abandoned the regimen that is used to slow the rate at which HIV multiplies in the body. The treatment which prevents HIV from replicating and boosts the immunity of patients has to be taken with food, according to medical experts.
People living with HIV in Otuke District are
discontinuing the uptake of Anti-Retroviral Drugs (ARVs) due to hunger. The area has suffered a prolonged drought that has resulted in food insecurity which has left thousands of people starving.
Most of the affected persons are the elderly, children and Persons living with HIV and AIDS, many of whom have now abandoned the regimen that is used to slow the rate at which HIV multiplies in the
body. The treatment which prevents HIV from replicating and boosts the immunity of patients has to be taken with food, according to medical experts.
Medical records show that people on anti-retroviral treatment report increased adverse effects if they are unable to eat and they are always encouraged to ensure that they have an adequate diet while on ARVs. But this is no longer possible for families in Otuke that are in dire need of food, and spending days and nights without a meal.
Christine Abeja, a resident of Okwongo Town Council who has been on HIV treatment for more than 20 years says she has stopped taking the medicine because she becomes weak whenever she takes medicine without food, yet she needs the energy to look for
food for the children she is taking care of.
Luo//Cue in; “Mwonyo yat ARV…
Cue out… atye alole kede.”//
Medics say that if a person with HIV skips doses of the drugs, the virus can
start copying itself in their body again. As a result, this could cause HIV to become
resistant to the drugs and if this happens, the drug will no longer work,
and that person will be left with fewer options to treat their HIV.
Consy Akello, another resident is currently
struggling to take care of her 15-year-old granddaughter who is battling a double ailment of HIV and hydrocephalus; a condition in which fluid
accumulates in the brain. Atim cannot get up from bed, let alone eat on her own and
her grandmother is afraid of losing her.
Luo//Cue in; “Peko atini tye …
Cue out… we agwok oitinoni.”//
A Medical Officer in charge of the ART clinic at one of the health centres in
Otuke district who spoke on condition of anonymity says that the challenge brought
by hunger is bigger because many of her clients are not taking their treatment because
the medicine needs proper meals with good nutritional value.
“I have seen people living with HIV who have left taking
ARVs and when you see the statistics from the district, the viral load across
health facilities is increasing among people affected by HIV because people
are abandoning their ARVs. This is making a reversal on the gains that the
country had might regarding the fight against HIV and Aids.”
Caroline Okello, a resident of Ogor sub-county confirms that
her husband who passed on late last month had been on ARVs for more than 15
years, but recently abandoned the life-prolonging treatment due to the acute
famine being experienced in the district.
She says, “every time my husband
swallowed his medication without food, he became weaker until he stopped
completely and passed on weeks later. These
drugs make you weak and reduce your strength,” Okello said.
Fred Omara Mwoch, the chairman of People Living with
HIV/Aids in Lango says the current famine coupled with the high prices of food is
affecting his members.
“There are so many people (over 50,000) living with the
virus in Lira District alone. The hunger is mostly affecting my members who are
living in rural areas because they depend on rain-fed agriculture but their
crops have dried up because of the drought,” he said.
So far over five people are confirmed to have died from
hunger in the district.