HIV / AIDS Stories
Stories about how WFP is assisting people with HIV and tuberculosis.
“Since learning of my HIV status, I’ve met regularly with the community health worker who has told me about the services available to me and about WFP food assistance”, says Tankiso Motake. “Since the beginning of the year 2011, I’ve been following a course of medical treatment, and visited the clinic regularly.”
Tankiso is one of the people living with HIV (PLHIV) and benefiting from the nutritional support services provided by WFP at St. David’s rural clinic in Lesotho’s Berea district. “My daughter and I also regularly receive food packages which helps keep us both strong and healthy", she says. "My family have had economic problems since my husband returned from his mine work in South Africa last year.
Not receiving regular help with food from WFP would have made our life very difficult. I’m very happy to be getting this support”.
Malnutrition and anaemia
Ms. Motake is one of the 260,000 registered PLHIV (15-49 years) in the country. Berea, in Lesotho’s western lowlands, is one of four districts in Lesotho where WFP is supporting vulnerable health care patients with nutritional services.
This response to high levels of malnutrition and anaemia is part of the UN Joint Programme on Nutrition. Among a total of 11,458 households being supported are PLHIV on antiretroviral therapy (ART), TB patients on treatment, pregnant and breast-feeding women and undernourished children under five.
There are more than a quarter million people living with HIV in Lesotho. In four of the country's districts, WFP is supporting some of the most vulnerable HIV+ people with nutritional services to counter high levels of malnutrition and anaemia.
DODOMA-- Faudhia Athman Mushi, now 13, was orphaned as a child and was later found to be HIV-positive. Living with her elderly grandmother in rural Kibosho Kindi village in Tanzania, she says her life changed dramatically after she was enrolled in the Kiwakkuki programme that offered her both anti-retroviral drugs supplemented by nutritious food from WFP targeted at people living with HIV/AIDS.
“Our family was made up of just two people – me and my grandmother,” she remembers. “We had nothing to eat so we begged from our neighbors. I used to spend a lot of time looking for food so we could survive, while my grandmother stayed home doing domestic work. This meant I went to school irregularly, with poor health. When I did, I easily lost concentration, which resulted in poor performance.”
After she started receiving the food and medication, Faudhia says her symptoms started to diminish and she became more energetic and alert at school. She has just completed her Class 7 studies at Kindi primary school and in two sets of recent exams, she ranked 24th out of 53 pupils, then 19th out of 53 pupils. She says her teachers believe she can continue to place higher in these exams so she can go on to attend secondary school.
Faudhia says she is determined to become either a teacher or a journalist, and loves mathematics, science, and English. “I am also happy that my grandmother can do her work without worrying about my health anymore,” she says, adding: “I thank WFP (and other donors) with all my heart for the food that has supported me and I am sure will help me achieve my dreams and be able to support myself and other people affected with HIV."
As an HIV-positive orphan, Faudhia spent long hours struggling to find food for herself and her grandmother. She often missed school. Now she is getting food and medicine through a WFP-assisted programme and she is fighting to change her life for the better.
Sandzisile (9) says the chickens can be naughty but she and her schoolmates enjoy looking after them. They had 200 broilers in the shed behind the schoolhouse but 180 were sold, netting a neat little profit. This, along with the proceeds from the school vegetable garden, will be divided up amongst the pupils’ families at the end of the year. The activities serve a dual purpose - generating income and teaching the children basic farming skills.
Of the 450 or so students at Mafutseni Community Primary School, 50 are enrolled in the Children and Youth Development Programme (CYDP). Supported by WFP which provides food assistance to some 2,000 CYDP participants in 50 sites countrywide, the initiative is designed to boost the nutritional status of vulnerable older children in rural areas while encouraging them to build productive assets in the community.
“The food from WFP makes a real difference because a lot of these children get nothing to eat at home”, says teacher Zanele Groening. “Many of them don’t have parents so there’s no one to cultivate their land. The situation has been made worse by drought over the past few years”.
WFP provides monthly take-home rations of maize, yellow split peas and vegetable oil for the families of the children. Some have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS which infects about a quarter of the Swazi workforce – the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. Others, like Sandzisile, live at home with a single parent and various siblings and relatives.
“We work with the chickens and in the vegetable garden when we’ve finished our lessons”, explains Zakhele (16) who lives as the adopted son of one of the teachers, having been abandoned at a young age by his parents. “It’s a useful project to do at school…though I don’t really want to be a farmer. I’d like to be a doctor one day”.
Lessons and skills
Agriculture is the backbone of the Swazi economy with 70 per cent of the population dependent on it for an income. So it makes sense for the CYDP to concentrate on activities that are related to the land. Other schemes considered by the teachers at Mafutseni were bee-keeping and fish-farming.
Zakhele may one day work in the health sector. Sandzisile would like to become a nurse. But for many of the Mafutseni pupils, the hope is that the skills they learn alongside their lessons will enable them to make a living in the agricultural sector which has for so long sustained their families and community.
In schools in rural Swaziland, vulnerable children, many of whom have lost a parent or parents to HIV/AIDS, learn useful life skills in addition to their regular lessons while WFP supplies their families with basic foodstuffs.
In Lao PDR, WFP has formed an award-winning alliance of government, non-profit and private sector actors to improve the nutrition and treatment of people living with HIV. Literally.
A WFP-supported project to provide better HIV treatment and care in Lao PDR has received an award in recognition of excellent South-South Cooperation.
Her story begins with a trip. In 1995, she became a young widow with three children and left her village to find a job in town. Her children remained in the village with her family, and she returned to see them as often as she could.
During the first months in town, Patricia stayed with her uncle, who welcomed her as a daughter and gave her the means to produce and sell dolo, a kind of local beer. One day, at her uncle’s house, she met Emile, who became her second husband in 1999.
Soon, Emile began to grow sick and after only two years together, he died of an illness without a name. Patricia’s older sister, who lived in a neighborhood close by, advised Patricia to go test for HIV.
In June 2001, after the test, the doctor explained to Patricia that she was HIV positive. Once she began taking her antiretroviral treatment, she felt tired all the time and could no longer work.
Few know that Patricia is HIV positive.
"One of my biggest regrets is that I have never been able to speak truthfully of my illness with my uncle," she explained. "Today, the only people who know about it are my older sister and my aunt.”
In 2004, Patricia got in touch with an association Zems Taaba, which means “Let’s understand each other.” Through this organisation, which partners with WFP, Patricia receives WFP food assistance, which gives her the strength to work and undertake her daily tasks.
“Thanks to WFP support, I don’t feel weak anymore,” she said. “I feel I have enough energy to work and to live.”
Patricia is 42 years old and has been living with HIV for 10 years. She is now receiving food assistance through WFP, essential for effective antiretroviral treatment.
BOHONG - “Each week WFP food helps these individuals regain their strength and improve their nutritional status,” said Marcel Nzambo, nurse and head of the centre. 68 patients, including malnourished women and children and people living with HIV, currently receive food assistance at the centre. In addition, they receive awareness messages on hygiene and nutritional practices, which they can then share with their families.
Mariamma, a beneficiary at the centre, has 11 children whose ages range from 1 to 22. She started receiving WFP food in 2006 when she and her family were displaced and fled to Niem Yelewa some 100 km away. The family returned to Bohong when the security situation was calmer. In 2007, when she came to the centre to take her anti-retroviral treatment, she was enrolled in the WFP programme as she was malnourished and underweight.
‘I was weak but WFP food helped my health’ said Mariamma. Since then, Mariamma has been enrolled in WFP nutritional programmes for pregnant and nursing women during each pregnancy when she was underweight.
Mariamma's diet is central to how well she feels. "If I don’t find WFP food, I am not in good health," she said. She is currently once again enrolled on the WFP HIV programme, following a relapse into malnutrition after a recent pregnancy. “Eating dates and drinking water gives you strength as if you have just eaten,” she said, referring to a supplementary ration of dates she recently received.
But Mariamma and her husband have now started to rebuild their livelihood since returning by planting manioc. Some is used for home consumption and some sold. They lost everything, but are now rebuilding their assets little by little. She hopes to be able to increase the amount planted and grow other crops as her strength returns.
WFP has been providing food at the Caritas health centre in the rural area of Bohong, Ouham Pende in the north-west of Central African Republic since 2006. The area was the scene of conflicts between armed political groups and the government as well as bandits, causing many people to leave their homes.
ROME –- Some 34 million people around the world are living with the HIV virus, according to a new report released by UNAIDS ahead of World AIDS Day. Many of these people are also hungry, which prevents them from living the productive lives that would be possible with treatment.
WFP food assistance keeps food insecure people living with HIV and AIDS healthy longer and improves the effectiveness of treatment. Learn more
UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report
Key Facts From The Report
- There around 34 million people in the world living with HIV
- There were approximately 2.7 million new infections in 2010
- Around 1.8 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2010.
- Nearly 50% of all people eligible for HIV treatment now have access.
- Nearly 50% of pregnant women living with HIV received antiretroviral therapy to prevent transmitting the virus to their child.
- In 2010, 21 high prevalence countries reported declines in HIV prevalence among young people (aged 15-24 years), five more than in 2009.
It also keeps them from having to make the choice that faces many people living with HIV: do I spend what money I have on medication or on food for my families.
Here are three examples of people living with HIV, who are rising above hunger and getting on with their lives thanks to food assistance.
Dora in Bolivia
Before Dora was diagnosed with HIV, she had never even heard of the disease. But she quickly learned about its effects on herself and on her ability to care for her children. Now, with WFP’s food and nutrition support, she is stronger, healthier and better able to provide for herself and her family. Read more
Pong Onn in Cambodia
Pong Onn, 34, was in dire straits before she joined a food and treatment programme six years ago. Since then, she has recovered her strength and is now able to look after her her two-year-old daughter. She also takes part in a community awareness project helping other women with HIV. Read more
Nosipho in Swaziland
In a country where AIDS has left countless children orphans and where life expectancy is only 47, Nosipho and her grandchildren might appear to have the cards stacked against them. But with food assistance, the determined 50-year-old, diagnosed with HIV five years ago, is steering the children towards a brighter future. Read more
For people living with HIV, eating nutritious food is essential. Proper nutrition, combined with medical treatment, means they can recover their health and resume productive lives. WFP supports some 2.5 million people in 44 countries through its HIV programmes. Here are three of those people.
By Laura Reynolds and Timothy Sandoe
MBABANE -- Nosipho Mbhamali, age 50, is the sole provider for her three young grandchildren. Residing in the northern Hhohho region of Swaziland, Nosipho was diagnosed with HIV in 2006 and is also suffering from tuberculosis. Her condition is grave and she struggles to walk. She needs to use crutches to get to the local health centre. “I used to have a real problem providing food for my children,” Nosipho says, explaining that her health problems, coupled with the lack of rain, mades growing crops difficult. In addition to that, she was unable to rely on her relatives.
That was until she started receiving food rations from a joint programme offered by WFP and the Swaziland Government . Nosipho was admitted to the Food by Prescription program after doctors at the local health clinic found her to be seriously malnourished. She now receives individual food rations for herself and a food parcel for her three grandchildren (ages 6-12 years). “The food helps my children,” she said with a smile. “With the help that WFP provides, I know that I can support my grandchildren.”
Sadly, Nosipho’s story is not unique to Swaziland. With the world’s highest HIV prevalence rate and highest incidence of tuberculosis, few people are unaffected by the tragedy surrounding these diseases. Life expectancy is only 47 years and it’s currently estimated that there are over 200,000 orphans and vulnerable children in the country.
WFP, in partnership with the Swaziland National Nutrition Council, recently introduced the Food by Prescription program to respond to this situation. The initiative aims to improve the nutrition of the many malnourished people on antiretroviral therapy. It also supports tuberculosis patients and women who are getting antenatal care .
The program provides food not only for the affected individuals, but for their families as well, so that PLHIV and others can be productive members of their community. Successfully running in 11 health facilities, the Food by Prescription program is benefitting over 6,500 people in Swaziland.
The programme essentially gives these people the opportunity to live healthy lives and provide for their families. “I dream that one day my grandchildren will grow up to be happy, successful adults,” Nosipho said.
In a country where AIDS has left countless children orphans and where life expectancy is only 47, Nosipho and her grandchildren might appear to have the cards stacked against them. But with a bit of food assistance, the determined 50-year-old, diagnosed with HIV five years ago, is steering the children towards a brighter future.
PHNOM PENH -- Pong Onn was infected with HIV by her husband four years ago. Her anti-retroviral treatment (ART) is free, but its side effects, along with her poverty, make her life difficult.
Last year, things got worse when Pong Onn’s husband died suddenly, leaving her to care for their daughter alone. Immediately afterwards, her health deteriorated. She became unable to work and she soon didn’t have enough money to buy food and other needs.
That was the hardest period of my life,” she says, recalling how she began the slow recovery after being readmitted to a programme run by WFP and a local NGO, Cambodian HIV/AIDS Education and Care (CHEC). The programme, which she had already been part of a few years earlier, provides monthly food support to people living with HIV and other affected populations, such as orphans and vulnerable children.
“Without the help of CHEC and WFP, I probably would have died,” she says. A team from the WFP-CHEC programme visited her regularly, reminding her of food distributions and ART appointments. It took a full year for Pong’s health to improve again.
Pong Onn first joined the care programme shortly after it started in 2006. As well as providing food, the initiative also involves training aimed at ensuring people have livelihoods. There are training programmes on chicken-raising and piglet-rearing, for example. Pong Onn, who had just been diagnosed HIV positive, could barely survive on her limited resources after buying her essential medicine. So she joined the programme.
“Luckily, my daughter was not infected with HIV,” says Pong, who had treatment while she was still pregnant to prevent HIV transmission to her daughter.
After 12 months, with her health and economic resources stable, Pong was able to leave the programme. She took control of her life and joined a self-help group, receiving training on good nutrition for people living with HIV. She educated her peers about nutritious food and the importance of knowing their monthly body mass index.
Now, after recovering from her husband's death, this counselling helps to keep Pong healthy. She is strong enough to work and she can support herself and her daughter. Pong Onn now earns extra income selling groceries, and she has invested in chicken-raising with a small loan from an NGO. In addition, her daughter now goes to school and has a bright future ahead of her.
Thanks to her chicken farming and small grocery business, Pong Onn is now able to look after herself and her daughter. But to get here she had to weather a series of crises after learning that she was HIV positive. One of them was the sudden death of her husband. Getting through the tough times required support, which came from WFP and a local NGO, Cambodian HIV/AIDS Education and Care.
LA PAZ -- Dora is a 54-year-old widow, housewife and mother of four children, the youngest of whom has Down's syndrome. Dora has also been HIV-positive for seven years.
“I didn’t even know about this disease before my diagnosis,” says Dora with tears in her eyes. She believes her husband contracted HIV from a blood transfusion a few years before he died. After Dora was diagnosed, she faced discrimination, even from her siblings, who thought that simply shaking hands would spread the disease.
However, as a beneficiary of WFP’s food assistance and nutrition pilot project for people living with HIV in Bolivia, providing nutritious food for herself and her family in the face of high food prices is one challenge that Dora doesn’t have to face alone. Dora receives a monthly food basket—rice, vegetable oil, soy grain and salt—and nutrition counselling from WFP that complements her antiretroviral treatment (ART).
“This food helps me and my family, as we only have my husband’s social security to live on,” says Dora. With the money she saves from receiving food rations, Dora buys vegetables and fruits to diversify her family’s diet.
This project, which began in November 2010, followed a study by WFP and the National Programme for STD/HIV/AIDS in Bolivia that showed that 65% of people undergoing ART are food insecure. The project aims to improve the nutritional status and treatment adherence for people living with HIV.
“I used to be really skinny, and the ART treatment made me feel really weak,” says Dora. “With WFP’s food assistance and nutrition counselling, I have gained weight, which makes me feel stronger to take my medicines.”
At first, beneficiaries found it difficult to prepare the soy grain in their food basket; although Bolivia produces large amounts of soy, Bolivians do not regularly eat it. Fortunately, enthusiasm increased once beneficiaries learned of soy’s high-protein value, which strengthens immune systems and build muscle mass. Moreover, soy is locally produced and inexpensive.
Now, a year and many nutrition workshops later, soy has taken hold in the diets of WFP beneficiaries. With the help of WFP’s soy recipe booklet, Dora prepares soy-based food at least three times a week and drinks homemade soy milk every day.
Nutrition workshops have other benefits, too. “We have come together as a group,” says Dora. “Workshops are a place to learn how to cook and to eat better and a place to share cooking recipes as well as problems and life experiences.
Before Dora was diagnosed with HIV, she had never even heard of the disease. But she quickly learned about its effects on herself and on ability to care for her children. Now, with WFP’s food and nutrition support, she is stronger, healthier and better able to provide for herself and her family.