Hunger forces HIV clients to skip medication

Hunger forces HIV clients to skip medication
Hunger in parts of Uganda leaves those on ARVs worst affected. Many are dying in Karamoja in both hunger and HIV. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

The biting hunger situation in Karamoja has forced persons living with HIV/AIDS to abandon their medication. The hunger was triggered by the prolonged dry spell, which affected crops gardens for the last two seasons.

Some of the people living with HIV/AIDS in Moroto told our reporter that much as Antiretroviral drugs have been helpful in boosting their immune system and enabled most of them to live longer; they now medication because of hunger.

Madinah Adong, one of the persons living with HIV says the food crisis has forced most of them out of the hospital since they feel getting drugs without food in the house is dangerous to their health. She notes that the most affected persons are breastfeeding mothers on treatment.

Adong asks government to intervene before all the efforts to save persons living with HIV go to waste due to hunger.

Christine Ajilong, the Chairperson of persons living with HIV in Kaabong, says more than of the 210 people living with HIV in the district have refused to take drugs citing hunger. She notes that the families of persons living with HIV are in dire need of food.

Ajilong says more than half of the over 1200 people living with HIV in Kaabong are facing a severe food crisis. Dr. Dennis Esayu, the in charge Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) Clinic at Moroto Regional Referral Hospital acknowledges that the food situation has affected drug adherence among his clients.

He notes that most of the clients who visit the ART Clinic complain of hunger and don’t return for drugs. Dr. Esayu notes that food is highly recommended for persons on medication as some clients register complications when they take drugs on empty stomachs.

He says some clients develop side effects like diarrhea, vomiting and nightmares in the short term when they don’t eat something before taking drugs while cases of anemia among others are recorded in the long run.

”We have heard cases of clients resorting to alcohol (kwete) when they want to take medicine and this is not good for their health” Dr. Esayu noted. Kotido District LC V Chairperson, Ambrose Lotuke says the issue of persons living with HIV skipping medications has overwhelmed his desk and every meeting he attends at the district.

”Unless the situation is addressed, we’re going to lose more people especially HIV clients to hunger. The drugs these people take are very strong and require something in the stomach to keep them moving” Lotuke said in a phone interview.

He adds that the most affected in his district are communities in the rural areas as they are hit by high poverty levels. The HIV prevalence in Karamoja stands at 5.3 percent. Government last delivered food to the region in early February this year.