HIV/AIDS Worsens Condition of Malnourished Children, Pregnant Women in Kenya
November 6, 2006
HIV/AIDS has worsened the condition of malnourished children and pregnant women in Kenya's Turkana region, IRIN/AllAfrica.com reports. According to a recent survey conducted by UNICEF, the rate of acute malnourishment in parts of Turkana is as high as 20% -- above the World Health Organization's critical point of 15%. In addition, according to UNAIDS estimates, HIV prevalence in the region is 11.4%, nearly twice the national HIV prevalence of 6.7%. In the past month, seven of the 10 children admitted to the nutritional rehabilitation center at the hospital in Lodwar, Turkana, were HIV-positive, IRIN/AllAfrica.com reports. "HIV is an increasing problem in Turkana. The rate here is high," Seife K-Yohannes -- nutrition coordinator for Merlin, a United Kingdom-based health care nongovernmental organization -- said, adding, "Most of the HIV-positive children have a poor appetite, nausea and vomiting and frequent uncontrolled diarrhea, so they become very dehydrated and lose a lot of nutrients." According to Mary Anne Macharia, a nurse at a rehabilitation center administered by Merlin. "If [a pregnant woman] is infected [with HIV], she gives birth to a child with a weak constitution and then she struggles to provide enough milk to the already weak child." She added that HIV-positive women receive antiretroviral drugs, but, "[b]ecause of the drought here, there is no supplementary feeding (to replace breast milk) and no reliable sources to get food or even water," which means there still is a possibility that an infant will become HIV-positive. In addition, fear and stigma associated with the disease leave the majority of pregnant women untreated and more vulnerable to other health problems. Yakish Eyapan, the district's HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections coordinator, said that Turkana has "many neglected issues that are more important to people than HIV ... like food insecurity, water, education and poverty. If people have no water and are hungry, how can you talk to them about HIV?" (IRIN/AllAfrica.com, 11/2).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.