Nutrition and Food Security for People Living with HIV

December 1 is World AIDS Day, the day on which we pause to think about the millions of people affected by the HIV pandemic. As the date approaches, we will post a series of entries focusing on our HIV and AIDS programs around the world. Some of the posts will be technical in nature, underscoring the scientific and programmatic foundations of CRS’ work.

The global rise in food costs is beginning to cause widespread hunger and, in many areas, increased malnutrition as families spend as much as 50 to 75 percent of their income for food. Today, many are selling their valuable livestock, land and their last family assets just to pay for bread.

At particular risk are people affected by HIV. Where they coexist, HIV and food insecurity are elements of a vicious cycle: hunger and malnutrition heighten people’s risk and susceptibility to the virus, while HIV and AIDS may aggravate hunger and malnutrition.

A recent CRS publication explains this connection in detail:

“Unfortunately, the adverse effects of HIV and AIDS on nutritional status occur while the body simultaneously needs the best possible nutrition. This often results in rapidly accelerated weight loss, malnutrition, and wasting. Adequate nutrition cannot cure HIV infection, but it is an essential part of maintaining the immune system and physical activity and of achieving optimal quality of life.

Replenishment of macronutrients and micronutrients is an essential intervention for people living with HIV and AIDS to mount an effective immune response to fight opportunistic infections. It is required to optimize the benefits of antiretroviral treatment (ART) and may significantly lengthen the period between HIV infection and the onset of active illness.”

If you’re interested in further reading on this subject, check out Nutrition and Food Security for People Living with HIV and AIDS (Bishop, C., Senefeld, S., Greenaway, K., Weinhauer, K. & Kruse-Levy, N., 2006). This paper discusses nutrition and livelihood security issues related to people living with HIV (PLHIV). Where appropriate, differences between symptomatic and asymptomatic PLHIV are noted. A general situational analysis of PLHIV through an integral human development (IHD) approach is discussed. Best practices and programming options are laid out. Finally, Nutrition and Food Security for People Living with HIV provides recommendations in the area of nutrition and livelihood security for PLHIV.

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