By Aidah Nanyonjo
PREFA, an NGO working to protect and prevent families against HIV, has embarked on food security and nutrition programmes for people living with AIDS in Masindi, Bulisa and Kayunga districts.
According to Dr. David Serukka, the executive director of PREFA, some people living with HIV/AIDS do not have food. â€œThe disease is life-long. More money is spent on transport and medication, yet those already on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) require a lot in terms of diet.
â€œOften neglected, food security and nutrition are critical for individuals, households and communities affected by HIV. Lack of food security and poor nutrition may hasten progression to AIDS-related illnesses and undermine adherence and response to antiretroviral therapy,â€ he says.
Serruka was speaking at a workshop held at Ridah Hotel in Mukono, recently. He says good nutrition complements and reinforces the effect of medication. There have been reports from the ARVs manufacturing companies that their clients are not responding to the first line of drugs due to the foods they eat.
Serukka says addressing food security and nutrition can help achieve the goal of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, to which all member states of the UN have committed themselves. Serukka says the organisation has mobilised communities to involve in farming as a source of income.
â€œFollowing the current global financial crisis, these programmes will enable people with HIV/AIDS to engage in income-generating activities like fruit growing. They can also consume the foods to improve their health,â€ he adds.
He says the organisation acquired $6m (1.8b) to fight malnutrition which had embattled most of the HIV/AIDS affected families. Serruka says many of the conditions associated with HIV/AIDS affect food intake, digestion and absorption, while others influence the functions of the body.
Symptoms like diarrhoea, weight loss, sore mouth and throat, nausea and vomiting can be managed with appropriate nutrition.
Adequate dietary intake and absorption are essential for achieving the full benefits of antiretroviral therapy, and there is emerging evidence that patients who begin therapy without adequate nutrition have lower survival rates.
Antiretroviral therapy itself may increase appetite and it is possible to reduce some side-effects and promote adherence if some of the medicines are taken with food.