Burkina Faso: Food aid shortage threatens HIV patients

AP News
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Posted: Feb 21, 2015 7:22 AM

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS in Burkina Faso could soon face cuts in food assistance because of a funding shortage, the World Food Program has warned.

The shortage threatens more than 12,000 patients and other people affected by HIV/AIDS, local WFP representative Jean-Charles Dei said this week. All are the beneficiaries of a program that distributes 117 tons of food assistance each month to vulnerable HIV/AIDS-affected groups, including corn, beans, cooking oil and corn soya blend, he said.

So far this year, the program has received only 27 percent of its funding needs, allowing it to provide aid to 3,000 people, Dei said. The projected cost of the program this year is $1.8 million.

"I am very sad because the international community is not reacting," Dei said. "The situation is more than worrying because people living with HIV and who are on antiretroviral drugs need nutritional balance to survive."

Patients receiving antiretroviral drugs could give up the treatment in response to aid cuts, as side effects including nausea and diarrhea could prove too much for patients who aren't receiving enough food, said Mamadou Sawadogo, head of the National Network of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS.

There are 110,000 people living with HIV in Burkina Faso, according to U.N. estimates. The adult prevalence rate is just under 1 percent, down from a high of 6.5 percent in 2001.

The current funding shortage is partly the result of past success in fighting HIV/AIDS, Dei said.

"For some donors there is nothing more to do in this country. But that would be a big mistake because if we give up, the few cases that remain could cause a resurgence of the sickness," he said.