As we approach World AIDS Day it is vital to highlight that people who live with HIV and AIDS in the developing world need to receive more than just medicine. They need nutritious food as well.
We know that 97 per cent of the 7,000 people newly infected with HIV everyday live in the world's most undernourished countries underlining the link between hunger and the disease.
Hunger actually increases the likelihood of HIV infection because people are forced to adopt risky coping strategies in order to survive. These can include travelling or migrating in search of employment and food, sometimes engaging in hazardous work, or even exchanging sex for money or food.
For those already infected with the virus, malnutrition weakens the immune system, which makes people more susceptible to opportunistic infections and diseases, including malaria and tuberculosis and this leads to a faster progression from HIV to AIDS. People weakened by HIV and AIDS also find it harder to buy food because they are often not strong enough to work.
What is Concern doing to help people living with HIV and AIDS?
Sauda, who lives in Tanzania, lost six of her children to HIV. She was in danger of dying too because she wasn't getting the nutrients needed for her HIV medication to work effectively. Because we know that proper nutrition can save lives we taught Sauda how to grow the right vegetables to improve her diet and help her earn a living.
She told me: "I did not have access to good food and my nutrition was really low. I had no energy. Bananas are a great plant because they require minimal work and I can use the conservation agriculture method on them. I also grow tomatoes, avocadoes, strawberries, mangos, passion fruit, cassava, soya beans, maize and sorghum on my two acres of land. My grandchildren are at school. By selling bananas, I can afford other food items and I can also buy soap, oil and salt now, and we eat the bananas together."
The effect of being able to grow and eat the right sorts of food isn't only benefiting Sauda. She is using the farming techniques she has learned to pass on her knowledge to the wider community and has helped over 19 farmers in her area.
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