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Good Nutrition & HIV/AIDS

By on November 30, 2013
Young Man eating Ceasar Salad in a restaurant

The HIV virus attacks the immune system. In the early stages of infection a person shows no visible signs of illness but later many of the signs of AIDS will become apparent, including weight loss, fever, diarrhoea and opportunistic infections (such as sore throat and tuberculosis).

Good nutritional status is very important from the time a person is infected with HIV. Nutrition education at this early stage gives the person a chance to build up healthy eating habits and to take action to improve food security in the home, particularly as regards the cultivation, storage and cooking of food.

Good nutrition is also vital to help maintain the health and quality of life of the person suffering from AIDS. Infection with HIV damages the immune system, which leads to other infections such as fever and diarrhoea. These infections can lower food intake because they both reduce appetite and interfere with the body’s ability to absorb food. As a result, the person becomes malnourished, loses weight and is weakened.

One of the possible signs of the onset of clinical AIDS is a weight loss of about 6-7 kg for an average adult. When a person is already underweight, a further weight loss can have serious effects. A healthy and balanced diet, early treatment of infection and proper nutritional recovery after infection can reduce this weight loss and reduce the impact of future infection.

Herbs and spices can improve digestion, stimulate appetite and preserve foods. A list of herbs and the beneficial effects claimed by people living with HIV/AIDS are given in the table opposite. For example, eating basil helps to relieve nausea and has an antiseptic function for mouth sores. Read more here.


Content for this article provided by Living Well with HIV/AIDS: A manual on nutritional care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS.

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