Experts link hunger to AIDS in Africa

By David Njagi

ImagePoor nutrition may have accelerated the spread of AIDS in Africa, and could slow treatment and care for people living with HIV and AIDS, experts have warned.

According to Prof. Onesmo Ole Moiyoi, of the Agha Khan University, malnutrition leads to suppression of the immunological system, hence the risk of catching infections including AIDS.

“It is called nutritional AIDS,” argues the senior advisor, academic planning, faculty of arts and sciences, East Africa. “This is why the mortality of under five year old children is very high in Africa.”

Speaking during the launch of a plant breeding academy at the World Agro Forestry Center (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Prof. Moiyoi however said AIDS virulence can be reversed through proper nutrition.

“If you take the case of an expectant mother, there is an imprinting that takes place early in life which predisposes babies to infectious diseases,” he said.

The professor said his claims were informed by studies being done in relation to the Dutch and Chinese famines, which show women were pregnant in 1960 passed weak traits to their children.

However, the Kenya National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) insists that the Most as Risk Populations (MARPs) account for the highest number of new HIV infections not only in Kenya, but the rest of Africa.

According to Dr. George Githuka, the programme manager at NASCOP, female sex workers account for 40 per cent of new HIV infections while half of new infections are shared between injecting drug users and male sex workers.

“We cannot rule out that nutrition plays role in prevalence of AIDS but the main mode of infection is through body fluids,” said Dr. Githuka.

Meanwhile the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) said malnutrition is a direct product of food insecurity, leading to deficiencies of micronutrients such as minerals, iron and vitamin A, hence the high mortality and morbidity rates among children.

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About seventysixthstreet

Science and human rights journalist, Kenya
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