LA PAZ -- Dora is a 54-year-old widow, housewife and mother of four children, the youngest of whom has Down's syndrome. Dora has also been HIV-positive for seven years.
“I didn’t even know about this disease before my diagnosis,” says Dora with tears in her eyes. She believes her husband contracted HIV from a blood transfusion a few years before he died. After Dora was diagnosed, she faced discrimination, even from her siblings, who thought that simply shaking hands would spread the disease.
However, as a beneficiary of WFP’s food assistance and nutrition pilot project for people living with HIV in Bolivia, providing nutritious food for herself and her family in the face of high food prices is one challenge that Dora doesn’t have to face alone. Dora receives a monthly food basket—rice, vegetable oil, soy grain and salt—and nutrition counselling from WFP that complements her antiretroviral treatment (ART).
“This food helps me and my family, as we only have my husband’s social security to live on,” says Dora. With the money she saves from receiving food rations, Dora buys vegetables and fruits to diversify her family’s diet.
This project, which began in November 2010, followed a study by WFP and the National Programme for STD/HIV/AIDS in Bolivia that showed that 65% of people undergoing ART are food insecure. The project aims to improve the nutritional status and treatment adherence for people living with HIV.
“I used to be really skinny, and the ART treatment made me feel really weak,” says Dora. “With WFP’s food assistance and nutrition counselling, I have gained weight, which makes me feel stronger to take my medicines.”
At first, beneficiaries found it difficult to prepare the soy grain in their food basket; although Bolivia produces large amounts of soy, Bolivians do not regularly eat it. Fortunately, enthusiasm increased once beneficiaries learned of soy’s high-protein value, which strengthens immune systems and build muscle mass. Moreover, soy is locally produced and inexpensive.
Now, a year and many nutrition workshops later, soy has taken hold in the diets of WFP beneficiaries. With the help of WFP’s soy recipe booklet, Dora prepares soy-based food at least three times a week and drinks homemade soy milk every day.
Nutrition workshops have other benefits, too. “We have come together as a group,” says Dora. “Workshops are a place to learn how to cook and to eat better and a place to share cooking recipes as well as problems and life experiences.