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
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.