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Hunger and Stigma Challenges to HIV Positive Rural People
by Nobelungu Nowapane
Sabc News
May 15, 2016

South Africa - Hunger and stigma are two of the biggest challenges faced by people living in rural areas when it comes to taking antiretrovirals (ARVs).

This came out during the International Aids Candlelight Memorial which was commemorated at Vergenoeg, near Kuruman in the Northern Cape.

The memorial is observed in over 100 countries - and serves as a community mobilisation campaign. It came out that poor people who are HIV positive battle to stick to their treatment.

Sedikaneli Molusi defaulted on treatment due to poverty. The 39-year-old knew of his status when he was in jail. Upon his release he says, he was unemployed and hardly had food. Molusi says he defaulted and contracted spinal tuberculosis (TB) - which nearly paralysed him. "The complication started in 2009 and I became sick. I was admitted in hospital for six months and that's when I began retaking ARVs and TB medication," says Molusi.

Activists say poverty levels in rural areas make it hard, for people to take their treatment religiously.

Alliance Against HIV and Aids activist Mpho Lekgheto explains, "What we have noticed is that most of the people are defaulting treatment, and the reason is because they can't take it on an empty stomach - because some of the people are unemployed and others are defaulting because of stigma. Because you'll be on treatment, and then you didn't tell anyone in your family and then there's no place for you to take your treatment freely. So at the end of the day people start not taking their medication because they don't want to be seen."

Activists and caregivers in the area are encouraging those living with the virus to start vegetable gardens.

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