TANZANIA: Man on ARV develops abnormal breasts
men on anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs have experienced abnormal breast enlargement similar to that of women. There are even cases where women taking the life prolonging drug against HIV complaining of queer side effects including becoming disabled. Tanzania
Joseph Mkanda, 43, one of the victims, said he developed strange symptoms plus growing breasts after taking the drugs. Initially, he suspected the cause to be lack of a balanced diet. But he soon realised that the main problem was the type of drugs he was taking.
“I feel very much ashamed to go out of my house, because I have developed breasts like a woman. …I fear that other people would laugh at me,” he said from his Mtwara-base.
“I went to one of the medical doctors in my village, who told me that such signs were normal for people suffering from AIDS who have been taking the drugs for a long time. At the moment, I don’t know what to do or where to go,” said Mkanda.
Salima Omar, 36, from Mtwara said she developed strange symptoms after taking the drugs. Salima, a mother of seven, said one of her daughters died shortly after birth in 2006 when she had undergone the HIV test.
Changes in body
One of her sons is also HIV positive and has been taking ARV drugs since October 2007. She explained they had both been taking the drugs, but due to unknown reasons, she started noticing changes in her body.
But she believes the changes were caused by the fact that she has been unable to follow the instructions of taking the ARVs. She said the drugs were very strong and required the users to get a balanced diet. But Salima was unable to follow the instructions and at times stopped taking the medicine.
“These drugs are very strong; if you take them without enough food you become very weak.
But there are days when I'm forced to take them without eating anything, especially when I get seriously sick.
In other words, I take the medication irregularly,” she explains. The family lives off the earnings of her husband who repairs bicycles.
After spending on alcohol, which Salima admits she likes very much, there is little left to support a big family like theirs, especially for buying food. Actually, she has been forced to sell all the family goats in order to keep the family alive.
Like many families in Mtwara District, Salima’s has been experiencing food shortage since 2007, a situation complicated by the recent long drought in the district, forcing many people to survive on only one meal a day.
She feels very weak on days she does not take the medication.
“I have even started developing some complications …I believe it is due to my inconsistency in taking the drugs. My left side is developing rashes, and I suffer much pain," she says.
Despite her HIV-positive status, Salima had until recently insisted on having more children. Three months ago she gave birth to twins. One died, and the other is very weak.
While pregnant, Salima’s doctors gave her treatment to prevent transmission of the virus to her babies.
Hassan has agreed they will not have more children, although Salima is not convinced. She particularly dislikes his refusal to use a condom when having sex.
There is no alternative to taking ARVs by HIV positive persons, even though it is challenging to adhere to the treatment because of lack of resources to get proper diet.