Jan 27, 2015, 10:17 AM
The UN systems in The Gambia and various stakeholders on16 July 2012, gathered at the Paradise Suite Hotel to validate a situational analysis on nutrition activities in HIV/AIDs response in the country.
In March 2012, the World Food Programme (WFP), in collaboration with UNAIDS, commissioned a study to establish the nutritional status, food and nutrition support to people living with HIV in The Gambia.
Officials were of the view that the findings of the study would further guide the WFP country office to determine the nature and feasibility of its future involvement in the national response to HIV/AIDS in The Gambia.
Speaking at the opening session, Alieu Jammeh, NAS director, said the provision of nutrition of people living with HIV has been an incentive for clinic attendance and support group meetings, and the role of partners has been relevant in support for nutrition.
He revealed that over the years, the criteria for nutrition support have been revised about two to three times due to the unprecedented high uptake of enrolment against dwindling resources, which is eventually compromising the quality and impact of the services.
Mr Jammeh underscored the importance of nutrition, saying among others that “good nutrition is very important for long-term health and survival of all”.
According to him, studies have found that people living with HIV (HIV plus) who have a healthy diet and good nutritional status can better tolerate HIV drugs, maintain weight and muscle mass more easily and their family.
He adduced that people affected by HIV/AIDS and women in general are particularly more vulnerable to hunger, mainly because of social exclusion and discrimination.
“Often neglected though, food security and nutrition are critical for individuals, households and communities affected by HIV,” Mr Jammeh averred.
He mentioned that lack of food security and poor nutrition status may hasten progression to AIDS-related illnesses, undermine adherence and response to antiretroviral therapy, and exacerbate socioeconomic impact of the virus.
For his part, Nuha Ceesay, UN AIDS country officer, said that over the past 30 years, AIDS has united the global community in a way that few other crises have, noting that this is also clearly manifested in The Gambia through the meaningful partnership with the government, civil society, multilateral, bilateral, private sector, and individuals and societies of people living with and or affected by AIDS.
“The Gambia has registered major gains in the AIDS response and over the years many programmes geared towards strengthening the response have been initiated and we commend the leadership of National AIDS Secretariat.” said Ceesay.
He indicated that at the level of UNAIDS the new strategy “Getting to Zero” was endorsed and now serves as the road map to guide the focus of the secretariat.
In translating the three zeros into action-zero AIDS related death, Zero New Infection , and Zero stigma and discrimination, social protection and food security and nutritional support to people living with HIV and the most vulnerable people is very key.
Speaking at the closing, Ms Victoria Ginja, WFP Rep, commended WFP for their time and engagement of the exercise.
She said that nutrition needs of people living with HIV/AIDS should be addressed.
“We understand clearly that they have special needs and we have to address them,” she indicated.