A study conducted by the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) has shown that, low-income levels among HIV-affected households has been found to be a major contributory factor to poor nutrition among PLHIV and a significant risk factor for the non-adherence to ARTs.
In his opening remarks at the National dissemination of an assessment report on Food Security and Vulnerability of HIV-Affected Households in some selected regions of Ghana, in Accra, the Acting Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, Mr. Kyeremeh Atuahene, said, this is as a result of increased hunger, appetite and gastrointestinal side effects after the start of Anti-Retroviral Therapies (ARTs).
Mr. Kyeremeh Atuahene, said, the study which was conducted in four regions in the country, revealed that, 50 per cent of HIV-affected households were vulnerable to food insecurity amidst low-finances.
He said according to the study, the average income status of these households were as low as GH₵ 300.00 per month for a family of three to four persons, and due to insufficiency, some Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) are forced to reduce their number of meals in a day or doesn’t take in anything food for the day.
Mr. Atuahene, underscored the need to consider the report as a national concern due to the fact that, HIV attacked the immune system, which otherwise could have been boosted with simple healthy diets.
He said, “As the need for optimal nutrition in effective HIV treatment success was undisputed to prevent malnutrition in PLHIV, addressing the dehumanizing food consumption coping strategies documented in the study would contribute immensely to the realization of the third global 90-90-90 targets.”
“Good nutrition is very important in the management of HIV and AIDS, to ensure the maintenance of healthy weight, and help in building a strong immune system, while PLHIV continues to take their ARTs to suppress their viral loads,” he added.
Some of the recommendations suggested by the study was that, the risks posed by the aforementioned negative coping strategies may be reduced through appropriate safety nets such as the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) and as well as prioritizing female-headed households.
He also noted that, the Ghana Aids Commission in partnership with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, have started a process to identify these vulnerable HIV-affected households to be prioritized under the LEAP.
To ensure sustainability of existing interventions to mitigate the negative effects of PLHIV and HIV-affected households, Mr. Atuahene said, the Commission and the World Food Programme (WFP) together with their partners, must undertake periodic food security and vulnerability profiling of PLHIV households in the country, in order to help inform policy decisions aimed at improving food and nutrition as well as health outcomes of persons infected by HIV.