regular, nutritious meals are vital to the success of anti-retroviral drugs
that treat HIV/AIDs. But in Kenya, many
people with AIDs cannot afford nutritious food, so the drug treatments are less
effective. Now, Kenya's Moi University and Indiana University in the United
States have launched a program to give "nutrition prescriptions" to
HIV-positive patients who lack access to good food. As Cathy Majtenyi reports, the
"prescriptions" are coming from farms run by the program.
Fanice Komen-Towett fills out a prescription for one of
her HIV-positive patients at the USAID-funded project. The project is called AMPATH, or Academic
Model for the Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS.
no pills on this prescription. Instead, it's a list of vegetables, fruits and
other foods that HIV-positive patients must eat to be healthy.
Most of the
patients here are on anti-retroviral or ARV therapy.
Komen-Towett, manager of AMPATH's nutrition services, says ARVs are not enough.
You can do
ARVs or you can provide ARVs to the patient,” Komen-Towett said. “But if they
do not have anything to eat, or they do not know how to utilize the food that
they have, then they will not recover well."
Kinyanjui is a patient who does not have enough to eat. He has four children.
He and his HIV-positive wife are too weak to work.
his food prescriptions at an AMPATH distribution center.
He says the
prescriptions are making a huge difference.
feel better, I feel stronger,” Kinyanjui said. “Today when I was weighed, the
doctor told me that I have gained weight."
of AMPATH's 70,000 patients are classified, like Kinyanjui, as "food
the money and other resources to make regular nutritious meals.
ARV treatments are ineffective without proper nutrition. It boosts the immune system and provides
and cook Rose Cherono remembers what it was like to be on ARVs without good
“You are dizzy, you are not strong,” Cherono
said. “In fact you cannot do a lot because it is like your body is weak without
that vulnerable patients maintain good nutrition, AMPATH distributes fresh food
at 17 sites within 30 kilometers of the western Kenyan town of Eldoret.
comes from five farms that AMPATH runs in the area.
include spinach, onions, and cow peas.
Workers harvest them every day.
Boit manages the farms. He explains why
his organization is growing its own vegetables rather than buying them in the
tried to buy food in the farmers' market, and then we realized that (in) one
time of the year you get only one type of food, one type of vegetable is
available in the market. We wanted a spectrum of vegetables which can supply
all the types of vitamins which are required by a human being," Boit said.
AMPATH hopes to expand its program so more patients and families can live