Nutritional and community health oriented project in the United Republic of Tanzania: HIV+ patient of “The Village of Hope”

Nutritional and community health oriented project in the United Republic of Tanzania: HIV+ patient of “The Village of Hope”

Francesca Mazzanti 5Francesca Mazzanti 2

Among the main goals of Associazione Cuir in its educational activity one of the most prominent is represented by the attempt to promote the holistic growth of university students. Thus, Associazione Cuir decided, in 2014, to award a scholarship to Francesca Mazzanti (MA), student of Nutritional Sciences at “Campus Bio-Medico” University in Rome, in order to allow her to prepare her final Master dissertation in Tanzania. Her research focused on the patients of “The Village Of Hope” hospital, which is located 6 km away from Dodoma, capital city of the United Republic of Tanzania. This structure, founded by Sister Maria Rosaria Gargiulo and Father Vincenzo Boselli, members of the religious order “Missionari del Preziosissimo Sangue” (C.PP.S.), consists of a community health structure, that takes care of parentless children, HIV positive, and pregnant women affected by the same virus, which constitutes one of the most grievous troubles of the devastated African continent. The valuations concerning the percentages of HIV-positive people in Sub-Saharan Africa are indeed becoming more and more worrying, taking into account what has been reported by the Global Report of the UNAIDS. As a matter of fact, the document states that in the region there are around 25 millions HIV-positive people, on an overall population of 94 millions of inhabitants. Furthermore, the same Report compares the amount of people died in the region due to the virus every year (around 1.2 millions) to the global amount (35 millions) referring to WHO’s data. After leaving for Tanzania in July 2014, Francesca spent two months with the community of “The Village of Hope”, working on a research about the prevalence of brittle and gestational diabetes in adults and pregnant women HIV positive, together with the relation between a blood sugar level disorder and the antiretroviral therapy, taking into consideration even the caloric intake and the nutritional habitudes of the local population. The use of antiretroviral medicines represents one of the most important steps, a cornerstone, in the fight against HIV/AIDS, with a considerable effectiveness in containing the spillover process of the virus. Therefore, their importance and usefulness cannot be questioned. Anyway, every therapy shows some contraindications: one of those produced by the antiretroviral medicines can be the inhibition of glucose carriers, causing alterations dangerous enough to be able to determine the insurgence of diabetes. On the other hand, Ms. Mazzanti, deeper analyzing the medical records of the patients of the village, and comparing them with others coming from outside, discovered the key influence that the nutritional and therapeutical programme followed within the village had on HIV positive patients. To point it out clearly, it is possible to state that the physical development originated by a proper diet allowed HIV positive patients to slow down the disease development,to improve the quality of their life, and, finally, to decrease their mortality. Looking at this aspect, even the village’s environment showed unexpected resources. The importance of the nutritional properties of the spontaneous vegetation, of legumes and cereals growing around the medical center, represented a fundamental part of patients’ diet. Therefore, it is worth spending a few words to comment on the so-called “land grabbing” phenomenon, which implies a huge exploitation of agricultural land on the behalf of international companies. As a consequence, this soil (and the water…), with all its nutritional properties described above, remains forbidden to the natives and the villagers, in order to obey to private economic interests. Notwithstanding the difficulties implied by the research, anyway, and the problematics found in living in an agricultural environment in Tanzania, the great majority of the troubles faced by the young student at “The Village Of Hope” came from the adaptation to this context, as diverse as possible from her original one. A context in which a key value is the trust given by patients and by the simple inhabitants of that place. Thanks to the help of nurses, health workers and even Sister Maria Rosaria and father Vincenzo, the founders of the centre, it has been possible for Francesca to take over these difficulties in a positive way. Thus, as a confirmation of what is stated above, and as a sort of conclusion, it is worth quoting the words used by the protagonist of this story after coming back from her stay in Tanzania: “I will recommend to motivated students to live an experience of personal growth in Tanzania, but it won’t be easy and one should be ready to face hitches, but the amount of experience he or she will take back at the end will be full of emotions, smiles, and a strong desire to come back and to contribute. It will be very hard to say farewell to Africa. It is a land that conquer you.”

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