Monday, 1 December 2008

Food for HIV/AIDS - and for thought

Photo from the World Food Programme

This story comes from the World food Programme, the organisation that is behind the Free Rice site.

Three years ago, Ntsonyama Sekoai, who lives in a town to the south of the capital of Lesotho, finally summoned up the courage to take an HIV test. For months he had been feeling sick and losing weight. Too weak to work, all he could do was watch as his family grew ever more impoverished and desperate.

"I guess I knew what the result was going to be because I’d seen the same thing happen to so many people in our community but it still came as a real shock to learn that I was HIV positive," said Ntsonyama. "All I could think of were my four children and how they would grow up without a father," he said.

But the Makhoariane HIV/AIDS support group has given hope to people with HIV/AIDS.

"Now look at me," said Ntsonyama Sekoai. "I’m healthier than ever!"

The group provides counselling and home-based care to the ever-increasing number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Morija. Stigma is no longer an issue in Morija thanks to the work of Makhoariane, which has helped to enhance HIV positive people’s standing in society as well as organising income-generating schemes for their members.

"Without Makhoariane, I would have given up," said 44-year-old Ntsonyama, who has already exceeded the country’s average life expectancy of just 36. "So many people had already died and I thought that my life was over," he said.

But while hope helps in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the most crucial weapons are anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) and food.

"The drugs saved my life but the food also made a huge difference – not just to me but to my whole family," said Ntsonyama. "The family ration means we have enough to eat for a whole month. Most days, we even eat three meals. And now my eldest child has the strength to concentrate in class," he said.

Knowing that his family will have enough to eat has removed a heavy burden from Ntsonyama’s shoulders and given him a real psychological boost. But he has no desire to rely on food assistance for ever. Along with the other members of the Makhoariane support group, Ntsonyama now churns out hundreds of homemade candles a week, providing the electricity-starved community with a cheap source of light and themselves with a small but growing income.

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