“All I Eat Is ARVs”: The Paradox of AIDS Treatment Interventions in Central Mozambique

Abstract

The number of people on antiretroviral treatment in Mozambique has increased by over 1,500 percent since it first became free and publicly available in 2004. The rising count of “lives saved” seems to portray a success story of high-tech treatment being provided in one of the poorest contexts in the world, as people with AIDS experience dramatic recoveries and live longer. The “scale-up” has had significant social effects, however, as it unfolds in a region with a complicated history and persistent problems related to poverty. Hunger is the principal complaint of people on antiretroviral treatment. The inability of current interventions to adequately address this issue leads to intense competition among people living with HIV/AIDS for the scarce resources available, undermining social solidarity and the potential for further community action around HIV/AIDS issues. Discourses of hunger serve as a critique of these shortcomings, and of the wider political economy underlying the HIV/AIDS epidemic.