Food security key to HIV fight

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WALVIS BAY – Food security or access to at least one balanced meal a day for HIV-positive Namibians is one of the critical aspects that need to be addressed by government and the private sector to ensure that antiretroviral drugs administered to such people serve their purpose.

This is according to the executive director of Namibia Network for Aids Service Organisations (NANASO), Sandi Tjaronda, who is of the opinion that Namibians won’t discard ARVs if they have access to one healthy meal a day.
“For antiretroviral treatment to be successful and to keep those living with HIV on treatment, food security is key,” he said during an interview with New Era at Walvis Bay.
“Without food we will be doomed. Our current experience is that people default on treatment if they don’t eat. Over the past three years we have become aware and continue to witness patients throwing away their medication because of the adverse effects they suffer when they take ARVs on empty stomachs.” He says this also creates a lot of challenges to the government and health workers or those administering the treatment. He then pointed out that one should not look at treatment as treatment, but as prevention.
“Because if you administer treatment to someone they build their viral load and if the treatment is discontinued it can cause resistance and this is what we must prevent at all costs. Otherwise government efforts to provide antiretrovirals would be in vain and our economic development will be at risk,” a worried Tjaronda said.
He therefore says it’s very critical for the government to look at food security, not only for people living with HIV/Aids but food security in general.
“In a nutshell we should speak about having access to food, any sort of food. But we should also keep in mind that a balanced diet is required by anyone to remain healthy. If we don’t want government’s efforts in the distribution of free ARVs to go to waste we must act fast and act now. Let us create food banks at our towns whereby residents necessarily don’t need to spend money but can rather donate a canned dish – be it fish or beef – to the food bank so that these items can be distributed among our people,” said Tjaronda.

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