Nutrition in people living with HIV/AIDS

People with HIV/AIDS have increased nutritional requirements for a number of reasons:

  1. Their immune system needs energy to fight the HIV infection

  2. To protect against opportunistic infections and to shorten the frequency and duration of these infections

  3. To enable their medications to work optimally

  4. To counteract additional nutrient losses (e.g. secondary to vomiting, diarrhoea) caused by HIV, its related conditions or medication side-effects

Thus, good nutrition is imperative for people living with HIV/AIDS who will have higher energy/caloric requirements that they had before infection.

However, many people with HIV suffer from nausea and loss of appetite, due to the disease itself, opportunistic infections or medication side-effects. As a result, their nutritional intake is often very poor. Furthermore, many experience vomiting, diarrhoea and constipation, which means that even when they do consume food it may not be effectively absorbed and utilised. Poverty exacerbates the problem further, as many can barely afford one meal a day and the most affordable foods are often nutritionally deplete.

At the W.E.E.P. (Women’s Economic & Empowerment Program) Centre, a division of Living Positive Kenya aimed at HIV positive women and their children in the slums of Ngong, nutritional seminars are held by dieticians from nearby hospitals.

These seminars start with a broad definition of the word ‘nutrition’, and invite input from the women as to what ‘nutrition’ means to them. The nutritionist then describes the way we receive nutrition, from availability and access to food, to intake, digestion, absorption, metabolism and excretion. The class goes on to examine the unique nutritional needs of people living with HIV aids and the potential barriers to achieving a healthy diet. They then talk about the food groups that comprise a balanced diet and how the women can incorporate these principles into their everyday lives. The classes are interactive and encourage the women to ask questions and express their opinions.

You can find more pictures of our trainings on facebook.

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