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In Zimbabwe, Malnutrition's Effect On People With HIV/AIDS - 2003-12-31


Food shortages throughout Zimbabwe continue to put people at risk for malnutrition. But for those suffering from H-I-V and AIDS, malnutrition can be deadly.

More than two and a half million people in Zimbabwe face malnutrition after food rations were cut in half. The United Nations World Food Program says rations were cut because of insufficient donations from the international community. This harsh reality for Zimbabweans is even worse for those living with H-I-V and AIDS. A lack of food weakens the immune system and therefore makes it easier to catch an infection. Francesca Erdelmann of the World Food Program in Southern Africa, says malnutrition could trigger a quicker progression from H-I-V to AIDS.

"Our fears are that with malnutrition, visible or invisible malnutrition among adults, we may find that the disease is progressing much faster from H-I-V to AIDS for example. Now, this is not a very visible progression that you see within a few days for example, but it’s definitely something that over time will have a major impact on the ability of the adult population to be productive and to also be able to care of their children for example, and especially also part of the elderly population."

While food shortage is a major problem, Ms. Erdelman says the problem goes beyond food.

The lack of AIDS drugs is also part of the crisis. All this in a country where over thirty percent of the population is infected with H-I-V/ AIDS.

"If we consider that many of the people who are infected with H-I-V/ AIDS also do not have access to the relevant drugs for example, and even those who do have access to the drugs, if they don’t have access to proper food, we’re not so sure that the drugs will actually have the required impact. So all these things are somehow inter-related."

Experts do not see an end to Zimbabwe’s food shortage in the near future. As a result, H-I-V/ AIDS support groups are working to provide food to those with the disease.

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