Fighting HIV/AIDS with Good Nutrition
Food and nutrition are very important in coping and handling HIV/AIDS and its many related infections. According to the American Dietetic Association, “Good nutrition as an essential part of HIV care…can have a positive effect on all parts of health.” Not eating is not an option for anyone who is immunocompromised (having an immune system, the system that protects the body from foreign substances and diseases that has been damaged by disease or treatment). In other words, the body is unable to fight off diseases. If the body’s resistance is low, which occurs when a person is immunocompromised, good nutrition and healthy lifestyles can help to strengthen the immune system.
The nutritional status of an individual affected with HIV/AIDS has an impact on a person’s ability to overcome infection and opportunistic diseases. Some of the side effects often seen among individuals living with HIV are, but not limited to, diarrhea, tiredness, weight gain, weight loss, nausea, elevated lipid levels (high cholesterol and/or high triglycerides), anemia and fat redistribution (lipodystrophy). It is important to address nutrition-related complications. Nutrition intervention is recommended for all individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, whether with or without symptoms.
Receiving nutrition intervention from a dietitian or qualified nutritionist can assist individuals living with HIV/AIDS to achieve the following:
- Improve and increase quality of life
- Prevent, reduce and/or resolve symptoms and opportunistic diseases
- Increase medical and medication effectiveness
- Prevent or reduce undesirable weight loss, muscle wasting and nutrient deficiencies (malnutrition)
- Improve immune system (which resists infections and complications)
- Assist in obtaining food and nutrition security
The dietitian/qualified nutritionist will assess and determine the number of appointments that need to be made based on the individual’s nutritional status. Remember, individuals receiving nutrition intervention are able to manage and reduce side effects of infections, medications and the management of complications more efficiently.