Food Insecurity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A Longitudinal Mixed-Methods Study from a Cohort of HIV Clients in Uganda

Published in: AIDS and Behavior (2023). doi: 10.1007/s10461-022-03953-6

Posted on RAND.org on January 19, 2023

by Sarah MacCarthy, Zachary Wagner, Uzaib Saya, Ishita Ghai, Yvonne Karamagi, Mary Odiit, Barbara Mukasa, Sebastian Linnemayr

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens the food security of people in low-income countries. This is important for people living with HIV (PLWH) because HIV medication should be taken with food to avoid side-effects. We used survey data (n = 314) and qualitative interviews (n = 95) to longitudinally explore how the pandemic impacted food insecurity among PLWH in Kampala, Uganda. Prior to March 2020, 19.7% of respondents were food insecure. Our regression models estimate that food insecurity rose by 9.1 percentage points in our first round of surveys (June–September 2020; p < 0.05; t = 2.17), increasing to 17.2 percentage points in the second round of surveys (July–November 2021; p < 0.05; t = 2.32). Qualitative interviews reveal that employment loss and deteriorating support systems led to reduced meals and purchasing of cheaper foods. Respondents reported continuing to take their HIV medication even in the presence of food insecurity. Strategies for ensuring that PLWH have enough food should be prioritized so that the millions of PLWH in sub-Saharan Africa can take their medication without experiencing uncomfortable side-effects.

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