Kenya HIV families torn between health or food

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Poverty, meanwhile, continues to eat at the gains made by modern medicine in fighting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Twenty to 30 percent of HIV-positive patients in the developing world drop out in the first two years of treatment, said Nils Grede, the deputy chief of the World Food Program’s nutrition and HIV/AIDS unit.

“Barriers to continue the treatment … are often related to poverty. You don’t have the money to pay for the bus, you don’t have enough food, so you spend your time on trying to make sure that your family eats,” Grede told The Associated Press in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“People adhere much better to drug regimens when there is food,” said Greenaway. “But in poor families, that might mean mothers who want to stay strong have to decide whether to take something from their children’s plates.”

Adhiambo’s neighbor Ishmael Abongo, a 35-year-old father of four, must do just that. He and his wife Mary are both HIV positive, as is one of their sons. The whole family shares the clinic’s food. When he has found work, Abongo takes a bit of porridge from dinner and saves it for the morning so he isn’t too dizzy for a two-hour bus journey.

“I know it is important to take the drugs,” he said.

He recounted knowing four people who did not take the pills because they had no food. They are now all dead, Abongo said.

A clinic social worker visited Adhiambo in her tiny shack in December, trying to persuade her to take her medication or risk dying, and leaving Emily with no family to care for her. But Adhiambo was more worried about their present situation.

“What will happen to her if I take these drugs and I get sick?” Adhiambo asked, adding that if she can’t work or even walk because of side effects from the medicine they won’t have any food.

Eventually, Adhiambo stood up. She needed to find some clothes or a floor that needed washing. She was two months behind with the rent _ $15 a month _ and could be evicted.

The white-winged Jesus that Emily prays to was shown in the picture walking through a garden, nothing like the smelly alley outside the shack.

Words below picture said: “May my prayers come before you, that you heal me according to your will.”

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Associated Press writer Luc van Kemenade in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia contributed to this report.

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