News / Africa

Antiretroviral Drugs Sold for Food in Kenya’s Slums

FILE - A woman walks on a street in the Korogocho slums in Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 6, 2011.
FILE - A woman walks on a street in the Korogocho slums in Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 6, 2011.
Jill Craig
Impoverished Kenyans living with HIV/AIDs are sometimes selling their antiretroviral drugs to buy food for themselves and their families. Medical professionals believe there has been a slight growth in the trend, saying that people are simply trying to survive. 

Fifty-year-old Sangele Kule lives in the Nairobi slum of Korogocho with her seven children and two grandchildren. She has been HIV positive for 16 years and lost her husband in the 2007 Kenyan post-election violence. As her household’s primary provider, Kule started selling her antiretroviral drugs, known as ARVs, to make money to buy food for her children.  In a good month, she says she can make about $6.

“I started selling them in 2007 because of hunger, because of poverty," she said. "I didn’t have enough money so I started selling it because I found some people feared going to the clinic so they asked me if I could sell for them to make food for my children.”

Kule says that this fear of going to the clinic is why the poor can sell their ARVs to middle and upper class people.

“He or she doesn’t want somebody, a neighbor, to know that she’s positive or he’s living positive. So he buys drugs from us,” she said.

Anthony Kitema Katingi, a clinical officer from Nairobi specializing in HIV/AIDS, says he has seen a slight increase in the number of people from the slums who are selling their ARVs. And he says they are not doing it for extra spending money - they simply need food.

“It’s growing, it’s growing… I can’t call it a business because I don’t think you can make money out of ARVs. Because even when they are selling it, the money’s for food. Because the majority of them, they are poor people,” he said.

Dr. Phenny Kachumbo is the medical coordinator of a faith-based dispensary based in the Nairobi slum of Deep Sea. She says that ARVs are very strong drugs and proper nutrition is essential for their efficacy.

“Now, food is one of the biggest concerns we have," she said. "So you see, you’ll get a patient coming to tell you, ‘so doctor, you want me to take these drugs but I don’t have anything? What do you want me to do?’ So it becomes really a challenge because am I supposed to be offering treatment at the same time I’m supposed to be offering food? And it’s really a challenge because you really don’t want to encourage that culture of free food because I can’t afford it. I don’t really see how the government can sustain it by just providing free food.”

And because there is no national database, Katingi says that people can get ARVs from government, church, community, and non-governmental organizations, take the necessary number of pills for themselves and then sell the others.

“They go every month for a refill at four different centers. So they have a supply of four months. So they can dispose for three months and remain for one month. Then, after that, they still go back and do the same thing,” he said.

But Katingi refuses to pass judgment on their choices, because he says they’re doing it for survival.  “If it’s a survival mechanism, then it supersedes the morality issues,” he adds.

According to a 2011 report by Kenya’s National AIDS and STI Control Program, the national HIV prevalence is 7.1 percent among Kenyan adults.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid