With Malnutrition in Africa Decreasing Effectiveness of Antiretrovirals, Program Provides Food Access to HIV-Positive People
Some health workers in Africa are finding that hunger and malnutrition among HIV-positive people are decreasing the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs, the Wall Street Journal reports. Throughout the developed world, it is standard practice to recommend that HIV-positive people take their medication with food. However, the advice is just beginning to catch on in Africa because, until recently, the top priority has been providing access to antiretrovirals on the continent. The United Nations in 2006 declared that access to food should be part of a comprehensive plan to fight HIV/AIDS. In addition, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in September 2006 began funding programs that aim to increase agriculture production in Africa. Joe Mamlin, a professor of medicine at Indiana University, is leading a partnership between the university and the Moi University School of Medicine in Kenya called the Academic Model for Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS, or Ampath, which is one of the first HIV/AIDS programs to include a farming component, the Journal reports. The program provides treatment to about 40,000 HIV-positive Kenyans and provides food access to about 30,000 people, including the families of HIV-positive people. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief last year provided $11 million to the program. Ampath also received $2 million in private donations and grants. In addition, the U.N. World Food Program donates grains and cooking oil to the program. According to Mamlin, about 80% of the HIV-positive people in the area where Ampath operates improve within six to eight weeks of beginning treatment but the other 20% do not improve with treatment. "They're the ones without enough food," Mamlin said. Ampath provides food access to HIV-positive people for six months after they begin treatment with antiretrovirals. By that time, their strength has been restored, and then they begin Ampath's Family Preservation Initiative, which teaches them skills to produce their own food or obtain a job that will provide enough income to buy food, the Journal reports (Thurow, Wall Street Journal, 3/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.