As the world continues to mark World AIDS Week, some people living with HIV/AIDS say although gains have been recorded in the fight against the killer virus, indications are that it has mutated into a disease of poverty requiring the government and stakeholders to work together in ensuring people don’t die of malnutrition-related diseases.
Most people living with HIV are happy that the majority of them are now accessing life-saving antiretroviral drugs. They complain though that the waiting period at distribution points is long, mainly due to staff shortages at most hospitals and clinics.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki was one of the few people who went public years ago tying the big number of HIV deaths on the continent to poverty.
Mr. Mbeki was attacked by activists who said he was missing the point but now with the life-saving drugs awash in most African communities, it is increasingly becoming clear that lack of access to good food is a big factor.
Cornelius Madzvanya, who tested positive in 2005 when antiretroviral drugs were being sold in pharmacies and beyond the reach of many, says the situation is now better because during those early days the medications was expensive resulting many avoidable deaths.
Majory Nhundu echoed the same sentiments, saying though she had not previously heard of the AIDS levy, she is happy that the National AIDS Council and its partners are working hard to ensure that people like her access the life-saving drugs.
Madzvanya says the issue of food is very pertinent as he no longer has the strength to work for himself and most organizations which used to provide them with supplementary food have closed shop.
Chitambo resident and HIV/AIDS patient, Portia Tapfuma, says most people living with HIV/AIDS are finding it difficult to access food resulting in their failure to get back on their feet to fend for themselves even as they are taking the life-saving antiretroviral drugs.
Tapfuma is appealing to the government and other organizations to ensure food availability for people living with HIV/AIDS.
She says the main problem faced by organisations assisting people living with HIV is that they stop giving food handouts once a person gains weight, a situation he says leaves many people exposed to hunger.
Zimbabwe National AIDS Council’s theme for World AIDS Day is .Zero infections this year’.