BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
A UNITED Nations (UN) organ has warned that people living with HIV will be severely affected by drought-induced hunger because they are unable to take life-saving treatment on empty stomachs.
Food monitoring agencies estimate that nearly 5,3 million people in rural and urban centres are in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of drought caused by this year’s El Nino weather phenomenon.
The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which in February launched an appeal to mobilise emergency food aid, warned the desperate situation would hugely impact negatively HIV-positive people in the country.
The UN organ said the hunger situation would also spike cases of gender-based violence.
There have been reports in the media where some husbands have been arrested for assaulting their wives for, among others, failure to budget in the face of the harsh economic climate.
“An estimated 5,3 million people in Zimbabwe are in need of humanitarian assistance due to the impact of erratic rainfall and the economic crisis.
“Rising food insecurity has heightened the risk of gender-based violence, particularly for women and girls. It has also uniquely impacted people living with HIV, who are unable to take anti-retrovirals (ARVs) on an empty stomach,” the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a brief on the hunger situation in the country.
“In addition, 1,5 million people in urban areas are estimated to be facing severe food insecurity, while people in multiple locations across the country are faced with acute shortages of essential medicines.”
The hunger threat on people living with HIV militates against a UN 90-90-90 ambitious target to help end the HIV and Aids pandemic by 90% in 2020.
A Zimbabwe Population Based HIV Impact Assessment October 2015 and August 2016 household survey — the first such survey in the country to measure national HIV incidence and viral load suppression — showed that great strides had been made by the country in line with the UN 90-90-90 target.
The UNAids 90-90-90 target calls on countries to ensure by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.