Hunger forces HIV patients to default on drugs

SOME people living with HIV are allegedly defaulting on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment due to food shortages in Bulawayo, a local HIV support group has said. Skipping the taking of the life-prolonging drugs can lead to ARV resistance and raise the need for expensive alternative treatment. This emerged on Tuesday during a meeting of members of a Cowdray Park HIV positive support group, Home of Compassion that was attended by Luveve MP Ntandoyenkosi Mlilo. Home of Compassion coordinator Miss Perseverance Gama said they were recording a steady increase in the number of members who are defaulting due to the prevailing hard times. “In the last two weeks we’ve been making follow-ups on our members who’ve defaulted on their medication. We noted that some of them are bedridden due to HIV related illness such as TB. They can’t work and some of them don’t have relatives who are working to source food for them,” said Miss Gama. “We’re not saying every HIV positive person is in need but we’ve critical cases that need help. We are appealing for well wishers to partner us in ensuring that HIV positive people live healthy lifestyles.” She said people living with HIV were having challenges checking their CD4 count due to non-availability of cartridges in local clinics. Miss Gama said this was detrimental to the health of HIV positive people. Mlilo said he was aware of the problems that those who are living with HIV are encountering. “I’ve already engaged officials at Luveve clinic who run the clinic in Cowdray Park that they should find out for us how much the cartridges cost, where they are sold so that we can buy them, so that patients’ people don’t travel long distances for this,” he said. Mlilo said people living with HIV should not consider themselves as vulnerable. “I want to tell you the truth, HIV positive people are not vulnerable. If you say you are, you will be stigmatising yourselves. “People will end up looking down upon you because of that. You can be anything while you’re positive. The vulnerable are orphans living in child-headed family, old people over 70 years who are not being assisted by anyone. The only assistance that you need is medication that is why you are not charged for ARVs,” he said.

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