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Ugandan women fear food shortages make deadly combination of coronavirus and HIV


Uganda Guru (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -HIV-positive Martina had a morning routine before the Uganda coronavirus was blocked. After waking up, she drank tea, ate a small one, and took antiretroviral medication as directed by her doctor.

However, her situation has changed since the introduction of regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in March. She has no food to eat, so she feels nausea and dizziness when taken without food, so she avoids drugs.

Matina, 67, has called for her first name since 2014, fearing stigma from HIV infection, but said her relatives could not work because of rules for travel and non-essential services. .. The seven children she supports eat up to once a day.

“Corona has brought me so many problems,” Matina tells the Thomson Reuters Foundation that she is sitting outside her small canopy house in the green and poor region of Gulu in northern Uganda. It was.

“Getting food is not easy. You can’t buy beans because they are expensive and you can’t buy them. There’s no money. Hunger just kills you, so maybe corona is better.”

Two months have passed since the blockade to prevent the spread of coronaviruses, and many Ugandans are struggling.

In Uganda, according to statistics from one of the highest rates in East Africa, about 1.4 million people, or more than 3% of the population, live with HIV and AIDS, killing about 23,000 people each year, 50,000 are newly infected.

Women are overly affected, accounting for nearly 60% of adults living with HIV. Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 have more than twice as many new infections as young men, and stigma is widespread among people with HIV.

But Uganda has made great strides in fighting HIV / AIDS, and the infection rate has dropped from 18.5% in 1992. According to UN data, one million people are taking drugs to slow the progression of HIV and stop it from progressing to AIDS.

In 2014, the Diet condemned the intentional transmission of this disease as a crime.

Race to the stem virus

However, due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, the blockade in Uganda included a national travel ban announced an hour ago, and there was no opportunity to plan.

The local government has told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that there is no time to prepare appropriately for people with chronic illnesses or those in emergency care.

According to the Kampala-based Women’s Pro-Bono Initiative, at least 11 pregnant women are dying due to problems with maternal access to health care.

Dr. Kaggwa Mugagga, HIV Advisor at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Uganda, said:

“We had to sit back and investigate the impact of the blockade on various programs.”

Initially, there was an issue with drug distribution, but more volunteers are delivering drugs on bicycles and motorcycles to HIV patients who may have an increased risk of COVID-19 due to compromised immune systems, he said.

The Uganda Department of Health has also launched a program that allows community health workers to collect HIV medications for their patients.

But more recently, Mr Mugaga said he heard more reports of food shortages due to labor shortages.

The ongoing uncertainty is “psychological torture” against people with HIV, he said.

Dr. Joshua Musinji, U.S. Department of Health’s AIDS Control Manager, said the government is trying to address food issues and provide people with the medicine they need.

The government also does not mitigate its efforts to fight HIV / AIDS, despite all the energy directed towards fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which has so far infected about 250 people in Uganda. To the public.

“We may not be reaching all of them because it’s not normal time … there are gaps and patients may be experiencing difficulties,” Mususinguzi said.

Too hungry for drugs

Established in 1987, the non-governmental organization, the AIDS Support Organization (TASO), continues testing, drug distribution, home visits for bedridden patients, and follow-up for missed schedules.

Michael Ochwo, TASO’s Guru Center Program Manager, says some patients are struggling to eat, but “at present, we can’t provide this food,” he said. He said TASO is talking to a government task force to see what it could do.

In Ravi, a 49-year-old neighbor in Gulu, Walter O’Hara mourns his friendly and popular sister.

Beatrice Osea, who was HIV-positive, died at the age of 33 on March 21, a few days after the public transport ban came into effect.

Mr Walter explained that Mr Ocean was a victim of domestic violence and had stopped taking antiretroviral medications a few months before her husband fled. During the months before lockdown, she had tuberculosis and had no food to take, so she did not take the medicine again.

As the pandemic began to spread, she stopped eating altogether.

“The effects of lockdown caused a lot of problems because there was no movement, no money, no one could support you,” Ohara shared with the Thomson Reuters Foundation with her sister, wife, and children. Outside the house with the metal plate roof that was on.

Oceer has been treated, Oyoo Robert Ricky, a health center facilitator at a guruk clinic, said food shortages are a problem almost everywhere.

He said three out of 941 people with HIV / AIDS had died since the restrictions began, including two mothers at the age of 34.

In a nearby neighborhood, a single mother, Asen, with five children, laughed sadly when asked what she was eating during the lockdown. Boil plants once a day, but that is not enough.

“We’re hungry and the kids are complaining. There’s nothing to do because they’re not there, there’s nothing we can give them,” she said she was infected with HIV from her ex-husband. I tricked her who had been fighting HIV for 6 years.

Asen continues to take antiretroviral medications, which he says is causing her problems.

“When you take the drug on an empty stomach, I punish a lot, it gives you an interesting illness,” said Asen, who asked me to use her name only.

Before the pandemic, she helped people’s homes in exchange for small payments. Now she said she can’t afford a mask that she has to wear to collect her medicines.

“We would rather buy food,” she said.

Report by Sally Hayden, edited by Belinda Goldsmith @BeeGoldsmith; Credit to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a Thomson Reuters charity. It covers the lives of people around the world who suffer from free or just living. Visit


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