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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid