In Ghana, a Full Stomach Means More Effective HIV Treatment
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Published on 28 November 2012

With the help of nutritious food from WFP, Agnes can now take her antiretroviral drugs more regularly and can feed her family of seven. Copyright: WFP/Vera Boohene

For many years, not having enough to eat meant that Agnes struggled to stay on her antiretroviral treatment. Thanks to food assistance from WFP, she can now take her medication more regularly, provide for her family and help others in her community.

Agnes lives in the Eastern Region of Ghana, the region with the highest rate of HIV prevalence in the country. She is a Model of Hope and Peer Educator volunteer in the regional hospital, where she encourages people to check their HIV status and provides counselling who those who test positive.

Since 2000, when Agnes found out she was HIV-positive, life has been difficult. She lost her first two children, then her husband left her and their two other children, who were also HIV-positive. At the time, knowledge about HIV in the community was limited, and no medication was available. She and her children became much sicker and weaker. Moreover, strong stigma against the disease meant that, eventually, Agnes lost most of her business in the community. With her husband gone, life became a real struggle.

Agnes and her family have received assistance over the years, but  food has always been a challenge.

“For those of us taking antiretroviral drugs, our most basic need is food to eat so that we can take our medication regularly,” Agnes said.  “That is why we are all so grateful to WFP for the food they are providing us now.”

WFP provides food to 3,000 people living with HIV and their families in Ghana. Monthly rations include the highly nutritious, fortified food Super Cereal, as well as maize, beans, vegetable oil and salt. Rations are provided when patients come to health centres to collect their medicine.

Of all the food commodities that WFP provides, Agnes is most appreciate of the salt.

“Salt is a very basic and non-expensive food item, but for those of us who are HIV-positive, we often have so little money that we cannot even buy salt,” she said. “I believe that a person who gives you salt has thought about you so much that he or she is prepared to cater for your most basic need.”

Thanks to WFP's food assistance, there is enough food at home for Agnes' family of seven, which comprises her husband, who returned two years ago, one step child, her own two children, and two adopted HIV-positive orphans.

Although they are grateful for the food they receive, Agnes and her peers hope that, one day, they will earn enough money to feed themselves and their families. With a full stomach, Agnes knows that her medication works better and her future is brighter.