Busia, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Several People Living with HIV in Busia district are abandoning anti-retroviral drugs due to lack of food. Many of the residents in the area are starving with no source of income as the government maintains a lockdown in all border districts, in order to control the spread of coronavirus disease.
But the lack of food has instead emerged as a threat to persons living with HIV whose adherence to medication has drastically fallen during the lockdown, according to Hillary Ogwero, the chairman of people living with HIV in Sikuda sub-county. Busia district has 12,000 people living with HIV.
Medics say that some types of anti-retroviral drugs increase appetite and lead to intolerable hunger, which becomes a serious problem for people who depend on one meal a day or even those that have nothing to eat. As a result, Ogwero says, several patients are skipping their doses.
Busia District Health Educator Lam Mayende says that the challenge for the population of persons living with HIV is that drugs must only be taken when someone has eaten. He says TB drugs and ARVs are very strong and not advisable to take without food.
Rispah Ahona, a person living with HIV says that she, and her husband, have both severally missed drugs after going without meals for days.
Fred Bwire, a resident of Sikuda village shares an experience of a relative who passed on after failing to adhere to drugs because of the lack of food.
Research shows that HIV destroys the immune response and the body’s ability to resist diseases, which makes PLWHA vulnerable to frequent opportunistic infections, which increase the body’s need for energy and nutrients. Persons Living with HIV often lose weight and become undernourished when the energy and nutrients needs are not met, a condition which makes HIV progress to AIDS.