Proper food and nutrition play an essential role in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, allowing patients to stay healthy longer, increasing the effectiveness of the treatment and reducing its side effects. However, due to the effects of the disease, HIV-positive individuals often face increased difficulties providing for themselves and their families. The combination of food insecurity and HIV/AIDS can result in higher levels of poverty, malnutrition and increased health risks. This in turn can act as major barriers to seeking and adhering to treatment.
The three-headed monster
“In Sub-Sahara Africa, HIV/AIDS is intimately enmeshed with its dreaded twins, poverty and hunger. The three heads of this monster feed off of each other and no medical care system can by itself expect to break the vicious downward cycle,” says Cleophas Chesoli, Associate Safety Net Programme Manager, Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH).
AMPATH works with the Government of Kenya to provide medical treatment for HIV/AIDS patients, most of them residing in farming communities with high agricultural potential. The majority are food insecure due to poverty compounded by the effects of HIV/AIDS, which has an impact not only on those living with it, but also on their households and communities.
WFP has partnered with AMPATH since 2005, with the provision of vital food assistance to compliment medical treatment provided to patients. Since 2009, P4P has added a new dimension to the partnership. The main goal of P4P’s engagement with AMPATH has been to complement food assistance and medical treatment by supporting beneficiaries to exit food assistance and become self-sufficient. This has been accomplished by assisting HIV/AIDS-affected farmers to increase their agricultural production for household consumption and also for sale to the market. Not only has this provided farmers and their communities with a sustainable source of income and food, but has also increased their resilience to shocks.
- The Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) is collaboration between Indiana University, Moi University, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and other North American universities.
- Since AMPATH began working with the Kenyan Ministry of Health, they have treated over 160,000 HIV-positive persons at over 500 clinical sites throughout western Kenya.
- WFP and AMPATH feed 31,000 HIV-affected persons daily.
Giving back to the community
One participating smallholder was previously unable to continue working on her farm due to the effects of HIV. However, food and medical treatment provided by AMPATH and WFP enabled her to regain her strength, and support from P4P allowed her not only to begin farming again, but to learn more productive farming practices and gain larger profits on a sustainable basis.
The trust built by AMPATH throughout years of living and working in the targeted communities has been vital to reaching HIV/AIDS-affected smallholders. Today, 40 percent of AMPATH’s patients are members of farmers’ organizations supported through P4P.
Not only have members of P4P-supported farmers’ organizations contributed to their own food and income security by producing more and selling to WFP, they have contributed to their community as a whole. In December 2012, two farmers’ organizations donated staple crops to AMPATH to be distributed to other patients who require food assistance.
Lessons learned from targeting
At the beginning, the initiative faced challenges due to the vulnerability of HIV/AIDS-affected households, and the stigma associated with the disease. At first, new farmers’ organizations were created entirely of smallholders living with HIV/AIDS. However, it was soon discovered that integrating these households into pre-existing farmers’ organizations was more effective, as the community and other service providers were more receptive to this method. This also provided farmers’ organizations with a better platform for business success. Today, many farmers involved in P4P have been able to overcome the stigma attached to their disease and regain ‘normal’ lives.
As lessons from the five-year pilot project are being compiled, the example of P4P’s collaboration with AMPATH is emerging as a successful and sustainable model for addressing the food needs of HIV/AIDS affected people. The potential benefits of encouraging newly infected individuals to embrace this model to attain food self-sufficiency at an early stage of the disease have also been recognised.