A new research by international development organisations WaterAid and SAfAIDS has found has found that access to clean water and basic toilets is an essential but neglected part of the management and treatment of Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The new report, released this week shows that 70 per cent of the approximately 35 million people living with HIV in the world reside in Sub-Saharan Africa. This equates to approximately 25 million people.

“Clean water is critical to keeping people living with HIV healthy, for taking antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and for the good hygiene required to minimise infections. Yet 35 per cent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa are living without access to clean water and 70.4 per cent are without basic sanitation. This leaves many people living with HIV suffering from chronic diarrhoea and unable to care for themselves or their families,” the report stated.

Meanwhile, it has been found that diarrhoea compromises the effectiveness of ARV drugs by reducing the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food and medicine, just as many life-threatening opportunistic infections are caused by exposure to unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene.

Diarrhoea is a very common symptom that can occur throughout the course of HIV and AIDS and affects 90 per cent of People Living with HIV resulting in significant morbidity and mortality. 88 per cent of diarrhoeal cases are directly linked to unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. WaterAid Nigeria Country Representative, Dr. Michael Ojo, who spoke on this said, “Thanks to the great strides in medical research over the last three decades, HIV is now a much more manageable condition and no longer the death sentence it used to be.

“It seems to be counter-productive that in spite of such progress on education and in delivering anti-retroviral drugs, there’s no focus on ensuring people living with HIV/AIDS also have clean water, basic toilets and the means to wash themselves and keep their surroundings clean.” Speaking further, Ojo said these basic services are crucial in helping those living with the illness lead healthier, more dignified and more productive lives.

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