13 May 2019

Mozambique: Cyclones Fuel HIV Spread in Mozambique

Photo: Pablo Garrigos/MSF
A consultation with an HIV-positive patient, the first day of the full re-opening of MSF’s HIV programme in the Munhava health centre after Cyclone Idai struck Beira.

Maputo — SUCCESSIVE cyclones that have destroyed health infrastructure have left thousands of individuals living with HIV/AIDS at high risk

The problem is most prevalent in the port city of Beira that suffered extensive damage from the Cyclone Idai that hit in March but whose effect is still felt.

A sixth of the city's adult population of 500 000 people, which equates to over 8 000 individuals, are living with HIV.

Dr Antonio Flores, an infectious diseases specialist with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) of as Doctors Without Borders said the organisation was aware about patients, including some sex workers, who had been unable to refill their prescriptions following destruction of facilities and displacement of populations.

"That is a big concern because some sex workers were taking the medicine as a way of keeping them safe from contracting HIV, others to keep the level of their virus low enough to not be a risk for their health and to make sure they cannot transmit the virus to their sexual partners," Flores said.

Flores noted the financial impact of the Idai cyclone might also be exacerbating the spread of HIV.

He said natural disasters and extreme hardship often forced people to look for alternative, last resort, ways to make money to survive.

"We have heard multiple reports suggesting that transactional - or survival - sex may have increased, including people who had never engaged in sex work before."

The impoverished Southern African country is also reeling from Cyclone Kenneth that struck last month.

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