UN World Food Programme

Food Assistance Helps Africa Live With HIV/AIDS

Prisca Siza says food assistance has helped her become healthy again.

 (Copyright: WFP/Marcus Prior)

To support children orphaned by AIDS and those living with HIV/AIDS themselves, WFP provides food and nutrition to 2.3 million people across Africa. Those on anti-retroviral treatment are particularly in need of a nutritious diet to ensure that their drug therapy is as effective as possible.

DAR ES SALAAM -- Prisca Siza’s positive test for HIV came to her like a death sentence passed down by a particularly cruel judge.

“I was very, very scared when I was first diagnosed,” she says. “I thought I would just die straight away.”

The 37 year-old widow (her husband died of and AIDS-related illness over 10 years ago) and mother to three children, two of whom are not her own, had good reason to be fearful. Soon, as the illness crept into her, she weakened to the point where it was painful and exhausting to do even the most basic household tasks. 

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Chance of success

But then she enrolled at a centre in Tageta, about 15 kilometres north of the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam, where the Roman Catholic Archdiocese and WFP are working together to ensure orphans and people on anti-retroviral treatment for HIV have at least the decent diet necessary for their treatment to have a chance of success.

“After five months I am feeling much better,” she says. “Before, I couldn’t even carry a bucket. Now I am growing a small amount of maize, cassava and other crops around my home – before it was impossible for me even to think of going to work in the fields.”

“The food part of our programme is vital because when people are taking their medicine, in order for it to be effective, they need to be eating well,” says Dr Pauline Archard, the coordinator of the HIV/AIDS programme for one of WFP’s partners in Tanzania, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam. “It helps them remain strong and to continue with their treatment.”

Major improvement

Dealing with the stigma associated with her HIV status is sometimes tricky. But for Prisca, things have improved to the point where some of her neighbours are wondering how she has managed to make such a major improvement in her health.

“Initially, some people did try to ostracise me but I realized that I had to just get used to it – there was nothing I could do about them. Now I speak openly to everyone. People generally accept me – some are even saying that I am not HIV-positive because they have seen me became so healthy again!”

The best news of all came recently when her one natural son was tested for HIV and returned a negative sample.

“My life is full of hope,” Prisca says with a soft smile.

Factbox

  • WFP currently operates HIV programmes in 51 countries and last year reached 3 million people living with HIV. Read more
  • Some 77 percent of these people are in sub-saharan Africa, which is also where around 70 percent of new infections occur.  
  • WFP is a co-sponsor of UNAIDS, joining other UN agencies and organisations in a common campaign to help to prevent new HIV/AIDS infections, care for those already infected and mitigate the impact of the epidemic.