Poor nutrition fuelling Aids patients deaths
By Arusha Times Reporters
When people suffering from HIV and Aids succumb to the disease, sometimes it is not due to infections only, if the Arusha situation is anything to by, they could be dying also because of poor nutrition
The Regional Medical Officer, Dr Frida Mokiti explained here that while HIV/ Aids, with a 3.2 percent prevalence in the precinct, continues to lead in the list of top-ten killer diseases in Arusha, patients facing the onslaught of the incurable disease have also been found to suffer acute hunger. This usually worsens their conditions, driving them to early deaths.
Dr Mokiti pointed out the situation during the official opening a Training Course for Health Workers serving under the DREAM (Drugs Resource Enhancement Against HIV-Aids and Malnutrition) program being executed by the Community of Sant’Egidio, of Italy, in three regions of mainland Tanzania, as well as parts of Kenya and Mozambique.
“Many HIV and Aids victims being admitted at the Regional referral hospital of Mount Meru hail from various parts of Arusha and Manyara regions, some without relatives and many coming from poor backgrounds without any source of income,” she said.
Dr Mokiti said that the government has supplied adequate Retroviral Drugs enough for all practically HIV and Aids victims, but the only problem facing the sick people is lack of food, especially proper diet.
“Our hospitals do not provide food, but when the situation becomes worse, we appeal to local institutions and organizations to come to the rescue because ARVs are strong drugs that require the users to eat well before taking them,” she stated.
The Director of DREAM program in Tanzania, Dr Kingaru Shamsi said with support from the Italian Community of Sant’Egidio, they have managed to incorporate special a feeding and nutrition plan, alongside HIV-Aids treatment and Home Based Care for the victims.
“We ensure that HIV patients under our care are supplied with foodstuffs such as maize, rice, cooking oil and water filters to ensure that, they are fed well prior to taking their medication,” he said.
According to Dr Shamsi, many critically ill HIV and Aids patients regain their health and energy soon after being placed under special feeding program indicating that many patients have been dying, not from the disease but rather due to either hunger or malnutrition.
For the sick people taken to any of their health centres in critical conditions to an extent of not being able to use ordinary foods, the DREAM program supplies them with packaged, nutritional Plumpy Nuts that are well fortified with all essential vitamins, proteins and minerals.
DREAM extends free health services to HIV and Aids as well as Tuberculosis victims at its Usa-River Center in Arusha, Masanga (Musoma) and Iringa with over 3615 patients under their care, among them 2853 under drug therapy; 421 in the special program to prevent mother-to-child transmissions; 1270 children aged between 0 and 14 years of age; as well as 57 expectant mothers.
DREAM, the acronym for Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition, is a treatment programme based on a holistic approach of treating AIDS and Tuberculosis infections in Africa (Ebola was recently added in the list which was hatched and executed by the Community of St Egidio).
The programme tailor-made for the Sub-Saharan African region now operates in three regions of Tanzania as well as Mozambique, Malawi, Kenya, the Republic of Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon.