MBABANE, 28 July 2011 (PlusNews) – Organizations fighting HIV/AIDS in Swaziland were at first incredulous at reports that hundreds of impoverished HIV-positive rural residents were eating cow dung to give their stomachs something to digest before taking their antiretrovirals (ARVs).
“It seemed too sensational to me when I first heard it, but then an MP stood up in parliament and said it was in his area that people on ARVs were doing this,” said Wandile Khoza, an AIDS activist in Swaziland’s central commercial hub Manzini. “It has come to this; the food insecurity most Swazis are experiencing has come up against the world’s highest HIV prevalence rate.”
The Swaziland National Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (SWANNEPHA) confirmed that some of its members were consuming cow dung after MP Josephs Souza of rural Lugongolweni reported first-hand knowledge of the practice following visits to his HIV-positive constituents.
“A rural health motivator took me to one of the patients on ARVs who is among those that now mix cow dung with water and then eat it before taking the tablets,” the MP told parliament.
“We have resorted to eating rubbish for purposes of taking our ARVs because they must be consumed after a meal,” said SWANNEPHA in a statement.
Research shows that taking ARVs on an empty stomach can exacerbate the side-effects of the drugs, including headaches, dizziness and tremors.