Nutrition Key to Combatting HIV Symptoms

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.

When people are diagnosed with HIV, they don’t necessarily begin taking antiretroviral medication immediately. However, they may begin palliative care – medical care or treatments designed to help lessen symptoms or delay progression of the virus. One common treatment is nutritional supplementation – extra food, vitamins, or other supplements that the body needs to remain healthy. In fact, nutritional supplementation is a part of many CRS HIV programs.

A recent CRS publication, Palliative Care Nutritional Supplementation Targeted Evaluation, examines the effectiveness of such treatment. With support from the President’s Plan for Emergency AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), CRS conducted an evaluation of the impact of nutritional supplements on home-based care clients living with HIV in Zambia. The home-based care clients in this evaluation were not yet taking antiretroviral medications.

“The data indicate that nutritional supplements can have positive impacts on the quality of life for HIV-positive home-based care clients who have not yet been put on ARVs. Not only does nutritional supplementation have the potential to reduce malnutrition and improve the physical status of the client, it can also enhance a client’s mental outlook, increase participation in activities of daily living, and reduce the number and severity of negative coping strategies required by client households. Clients receiving nutritional supplements not only improved their quality of life, but also improved the food security status of their household, potentially preventing additional cases of HIV through reduction of risky behaviors.”

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