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HIV refugees may be more at risk during droughts in Africa

As the drought and famine continue in the Horn of Africa, the struggle to feed refugees may lead to more serious concerns for HIV patients, IRIN reports.

In order to have HIV medication work properly, patients need to maintain a certain weight and a certain level of physical activity to see results, the news source reports.

Without eating a normal amount of food daily, taking the antiretrovial drugs counter productive, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) reports. The medicine tends to make patients have a large appetite, so repressing the urge to eat can cause various symptoms. Many may get headaches, stomach pain, dizziness, shivers, loss of energy and even a rapid heartbeat, WHO reports.

Malnourished HIV-positive mothers pose risks for their babies, too. If the mothers are being treated with antiretrovirals, then it is highly recommended for them to breastfeed their babies to reduce their risk of developing the virus. However, the antiretrovirals will not work for malnourished individuals, so continuing to breast feed when the medicine isn't working properly may lead to a spike in HIV in children, the WHO reports.

Extra precautions need to be made in order to cater to both HIV-positive and malnourished people, so humanitarian organizations and governments are working to make sure there is enough food for the refugees, who number over 500,000.
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