Per­sons liv­ing with HIV cry out for Sh585m food, sup­ple­ments

The an­tiretro­vi­ral ther­apy is most ef­fec­tive with proper nu­tri­tion in form of food and sup­ple­ments. Lack of food can lead to ill-health and op­por­tunis­tic in­fec­tions

The Star (Kenya) - - Politics Ministries - RHODA ODHIAMBO @Od­hi­amboRhoda

Some HIV pa­tients are at risk as they are go­ing with­out food and nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ments and are now de­vel­op­ing op­por­tunis­tic in­fec­tions.

Jackie Wam­bui, from the Na­tional Net­work for Peo­ple Liv­ing with HIV, said, “Since 2012 we have been con­stantly ask­ing for food and nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ments and the Min­istry of Health would tell us that there is no fund­ing for such and that HIV treat­ment ser­vices are de­volved to coun­ties.”

NEPHAK chair­man Nel­son Otuoma told jour­nal­ists that Sh585 mil­lion had been set aside for food and sup­ple­ments by the min­istry, but no ben­e­fi­ciary has re­ceived them.

He linked it to the Sh5.2 bil­lion un­ac­counted for at the Health min­istry. An au­dit query has been raised over how the cash was spent.

“We have writ­ten sev­eral let­ters to the min­istry but have not got­ten a re­sponse,” Otuoma said.

While rapid scale-up of ac­cess to anti-retro­vi­ral ther­apy is a pos­i­tive thing, start­ing pa­tients on ART with­out en­sur­ing full ad­her­ence through an ad­e­quate nu­tri­tional sup­port sys­tem is likely to lead to treat­ment fail­ure.

Ev­i­dence sug­gests that peo­ple who re­ceive food sup­ple­ments sur­vive longer than those who do not.

ART ac­cess should be part of the com­pre­hen­sive pack­age of care for peo­ple with HIV that in­cludes nu­tri­tional sup­port.

Peo­ple with HIV may have greater nu­tri­tional needs be­cause their bod­ies are fight­ing to re­duce the con­cen­tra­tion of the virus; but HIV and in­ad­e­quate nu­tri­tion re­in­force one an­other in many other ways.

When symp­to­matic, HIV causes food in­se­cu­rity by mak­ing peo­ple feel ill and weak, and un­able to work to get food. In turn, a lack of ad­e­quate nu­tri­tion can sig­nif­i­cantly worsen the health and qual­ity of life of pa­tients. Many lose weight be­cause of chronic ill health, es­pe­cially if they are co- in­fected with tu­ber­cu­lo­sis – a com­mon con­di­tion and killer.

Otuoma said Kenya gave back Sh400 mil­lion to the Global Fund four years ago, money that was meant to fight HIV, TB and malaria.

“HIV pro­grammes in the coun­try are mostly funded by ex­ter­nal donors and I do not think that donors would want to hear that their money has been mis­ap­pro­pri­ated. The money we are talk­ing about [Sh5.2 bil­lion in the Health min­istry] is enough to put 1.4 mil­lion peo­ple who are liv­ing with HIV on treat­ment,” he said.

There are more than 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple who are liv­ing with HIV in Kenya out of whom 850,000 are on treat­ment.

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