Hunger and stigma are two of the biggest challenges faced by people living with HIV and Aids in rural areas.
HIV and Aids activist, Mpho Lekgeto was speaking at the 33rd International Candlelight Memorial service held in Vergenoeg near Kuruman in the Northern Cape.
Lekgeto says several factors contribute to people defaulting on their medication.
Lekgeto says: “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.”
“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,” adds Lekgeto.
Lekgeto says the biggest consequence of defaulting on taking ARVs is that it creates a gateway for what she calls opportunistic illnesses.
Thirty nine-year-old Sedikanelo Molusi says he was forced to stop taking ARVs as he could not afford to buy food to supplement the treatment. Molusi says he soon contracted spinal TB.
“The complications started in 2009 and I became sick. I was admitted to hospital for six months and that’s when I began retaking ARVs and TB medication.”
The district municipality says it is working with the Health Department to provide care for those living with the virus and the Public Works Department to alleviate unemployment through the Expanded Public Works Programme.