People living with HIV/AIDS in Gulu decry ban on hawking

todaySeptember 1, 2021

By Agnes Aromo

The new directive by government to ban hawking and roadside vending is taking a toll on people living with HIV/AIDS in Gulu City.
In July this year, government issued new directives banning; praying in open spaces, not wearing masks, hawking, street vending and selling nonfood items, which will all get one arrested.
The new directives are now deemed acts that enable the spread of COVID-19.
"From our observations, we have noted increased transmissibility resulting in a fast-moving outbreak, more severe clinical presentations of new cases and unfortunately resulting in poor clinical outcomes," said Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the minister of health.
Adding: “That is why, through July, anyone found praying in an open space or outside a church or a mosque, not wearing masks, hawking, street vending and selling nonfood items will be sentenced to two months in jail”. 
However several people living with HIV/AIDS in Gulu city whose livelihood depend on hawking and roadside vending for survival are calling on government to relax the directives.
Alice Acayo, one of the affected persons by the restriction says she is failing to make a decent living.
“I started vending food stuff some years back and my life revolves around it for survival. I need to take my drugs and what will I do now that my business has been affected? Even now Im fearfully and secretly still selling a few things door to door just to survive with my children”, she said.
Walter Okema psychosocial coordinator at the AIDS Support Organization (TASO) Gulu Centre says that the most affected people are the children.
“Well we have a number of children who are HIV positive including their parents. So many of those children are not even working. Their parents are also not working or if they are working then they are engaged in these petty businesses which are not even enough to support them. Now you paint for me a picture of their survival as they live with this disease. And you know HIV/AIDS depends on the availability of food, that’s why someone may abandon medication because they don’t have enough to feed on. And by the way this is a major worry because issues of drug resistance may also crop in. So we are in a dilemma now”, he said.

Experts speak out
Health experts say the inflammatory nature of HIV/AIDS puts those who have it at greater risk for infection, kidney failure and certain types of cancer. In addition to the damaging effects of the virus, side effects of some antiretroviral therapies also can predispose those with HIV to other conditions such as metabolic syndrome.
To build a stronger immunity, health experts say people living with HIV/AIDS should eat a balanced diet at every meal.
However Sr Margate Auma the incharge Art clinic at Gulu regional Referral Hospital says lack of balance diet is affecting immunity of persons on Antiretroviral drugs ARVs due to limit uptake of the right amount of food in a day.
“We have made it a song to encourage our people to eat a balanced diet. Besides supporting overall health and maintenance of the immune system, good nutrition also helps people with HIV maintain a healthy weight and absorb HIV medicines. So the more we eat a healthy diet the more immunity we build. But there are scenarios when one eats only once, so that becomes another challenge”, she said.

The figures
The prevalence of HIV among adults aged 15 to 64 in Uganda is 6.2 percent:
7.6 percent among females and 4.7 percent among males. This corresponds to approximately 1.2 million people aged 15 to 64 living with HIV in Uganda. HIV prevalence is higher among women living in urban areas (9.8 percent) than those in rural areas (6.7 percent).

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