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Stretching a Month Into a Year

March/April 2005

"He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skill of the physician."

-- Chinese proverb

While this announcement may not inspire you to mark your calendar, I thought you should know that March is National Nutrition Month®, a nutrition education campaign sponsored annually by the American Dietetic Association. I must admit, however, that I am sharing this information with you for a selfish reason. You see, this is the time each year when dietitians can shamelessly proclaim the importance of good nutrition. So, please allow me to participate in National Nutrition Month® by using this column as a platform to reintroduce myself and stress the importance of proper nutrition for all individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

I am Ellen Steinberg, a Registered and Licensed Dietitian at AIDS Treatment Initiatives (ATI). I have worked at ATI for the past year and have had the pleasure of counseling, writing and presenting about something I feel passionate about -- the connections among food, fitness and health. My goal is to educate (not dictate) and provide individuals with the information necessary to make positive lifestyle choices that can enhance their overall quality of life.

While proper nutrition and exercise are important for everyone, it is paramount for people living with HIV/AIDS. There are many ways in which HIV/AIDS can affect the body's nutritional status and a few are listed below.


  • HIV increases the body's metabolic demands which, in turn, increase the amount of calories and protein needed to maintain body weight and muscle mass.

  • HIV infects intestinal epithelial cells which can compromise your body's ability to absorb nutrients from food and medications.

  • HIV/AIDS, opportunistic infections and some medications can decrease, or even eliminate, your appetite, increasing the risk for weight loss and wasting.

  • Some antiretroviral therapies can increase your cardiovascular risk factors by altering your cholesterol, triglyceride and glucose levels.

While weight loss, malnutrition and increased risk for cardiovascular disease frequently accompany HIV/AIDS, there are things you can do to protect yourself. Research shows that good nutrition and exercise can boost your immune function, help fight infections, improve your tolerance and response to medications, reduce fatigue and improve your strength. Simply put, adopting healthy dietary habits can help reduce the damage caused by HIV. So, even if you do not have nutritional problems, optimizing your nutritional status should become a personal goal.

The foundations for healthy eating are the same for all of us; however, everyone has unique nutritional needs. A dietitian can assess these needs and put you on the fast track to obtaining all the benefits that healthy eating habits can provide. Whether you desire nutrition counseling or not, explore other resources and discover the benefits that can be achieved through healthy eating.

At ATI, one-on-one nutrition counseling is free and I can help you establish a dietary plan that is right for you. Please contact me at ATI at (404) 659-2437 to arrange for a nutrition assessment or to talk about your nutrition goals. Treat your body right and maximize your health and wellness through good nutrition, and make National Nutrition Month® a yearlong campaign!

This article was provided by AIDS Survival Project. It is a part of the publication Survival News.
See Also
An Introduction to Dietary Supplements for People Living With HIV/AIDS
Ask a Question About Diet or Nutrition at's "Ask the Experts" Forums
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