This marked the onset of testing times for Jairos before she got temporary relief from Christian Care, a non-governmental organisation that provided her family with food rations every month.
The help lasted for three years.
“l used to get 50kg of maize, four litres of cooking oil and 15kg of beans,” Jairos said.
“The food kept my family going as we were able to have three meals a day.
“l would take all the medication without any problems and my CD4 count was improving.
“But ever since we stopped receiving food the whole situation has changed,” she said.
Jairos said her family was facing a very tough time as they do not have food, especially herself and her three-year-old son who is also on medication.
“Most of the times we do not take our medication as recommended by health practioners.”
She said what made her situation more difficult was the fact that they were not given any warning about the suspension of the support, which meant that she could not prepare for the future.
Her predicament is shared by David and Lorraine Mhizha, an HIV+ couple from Harare’s high-density suburb of Mufakose who used to get food assistance from Christian Care.
Lorraine said they currently survive on vending where they make an average of US$10 a day because of the tough operating environment.
Vendors are always on the run from municipal police and are often forced to part with the bulk of their daily takings to pay bribes to the police.
She said they received food rations from the NGO until October last year when they were told that all those who weighed 60kg and above would no longer receive any assistance.
“When the list of people who were going to receive food came l was surprised to see that my wife and I had been left out.
“This was the beginning of our struggle for survival,” Mhizha said.
An official from Christian Care who refused to be named admitted that they had trimmed the number of people who were benefiting from their nutrition programme since last year.
“We have been distributing food to HIV+ people in many districts of the country and since October last year we have been trimming down the number of recipients,” he said.
The official refused to comment further as he is not allowed to talk to the media.
He referred questions to his boss, only identified as Matongo who could not be reached on the telephone numbers that were provided.
Proper nutrition needed for drugs to be effective
Proper nutrition is a must for HIV+ people and widespread starvation has been identified as one of the major threats to successful management of the disease in Zimbabwe.
“For drugs to effectively work one needs to have a proper diet and malnutrition will result in the weakening of the body which is weak already,” said Douglas Gwatidzo, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (Zadhr) said.
“If one is not having nutritious food it might cause the blood to become thin and that condition is aenemia.”
According to livestrong.com, a medical website, people who are HIV+ should have a nutritious diet, which strengthens the body and helps fight illnesses and even slows progression of HIV.
It can also help the body to fight opportunistic diseases.
Epworth, a poor informal settlement in Harare, had more than 300 people who were benefiting from the food handouts, who are now on their own.
StandardHealth&Fitness was told that many NGOs had also done the same, leaving thousands of poor HIV+ people in dire straits.