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Florinda’s story: how the climate crisis is affecting people living with HIV

29 Nov 2019

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Florinda (extreme right) with her three daughters. Credit: OCHA/Saviano Abreu

By Saviano Abreu

Since March this year, when Cyclone
Idai hit Sofala Province in central Mozambique, Florinda's health has been deteriorating. Living with HIV for many years, she
has been unable to sustain the treatment, especially because of her poor diet. The family–Florinda and her three daughters–lost everything including their house and crops. They are now struggling to put food on the table every day.

Florinda is an example of how the climate crisis is
increasing vulnerability across Southern Africa and directly affecting people who live with HIV. In Mozambique, according to the Ministry of Health, half of the HIV patients have stopped their follow-up routine with their doctors in areas affected by both cyclones
Idai and Kenneth. The number of people taking the medication has also dropped by 50
per cent.

Florinda is among those people. “Sometimes when I have nothing to eat I do not take the medication because the next day I feel like I will pass out. My whole body starts to shake, my bones, dizziness, everything”, she explains. But this is affecting her health. “I keep losing weight. I am not feeling well.”

Florinda’s family was already vulnerable before the storm struck. Florinda’s husband died because of an AIDS-related illness and one of her daughters is living with a disability and requires special care. They had a small house and a rice farm. When Idai hit, the house collapsed, and their rice crop was completely flooded. Florinda was able to salvage some of the rice, but not enough to feed her daughters until the next harvest, which will be in March 2020. “It means hunger, a great hunger. We have nothing, because when we harvest it is a guarantee that for some months we will have food. But when there is no harvest there is no way, it is hunger,” she said.

About 13 per cent of adults in Mozambique live with HIV, which is one of the highest prevalence rates in the world, according to UNAIDS, the coalition of 11 UN agencies established in 1994 to tackle the global AIDS epidemic. The global average prevalence rate is 0.8 per cent. The ongoing food crisis in the country, where more than 2 million people are severely food insecure, exacerbate the vulnerabilities of people living with HIV.