World Needs to Address Food Shortages Among HIV-Positive People, Groups Say
August 18, 2006
More needs to be done to address food shortages among HIV-positive people in developing countries because people taking antiretroviral drugs are more likely to die if they are malnourished, representatives from the World Food Programme and Partners in Health said Wednesday at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The representatives cited a study in the journal HIV Medicine that finds people taking antiretrovirals who are malnourished are six times more likely to die than people taking antiretrovirals who are not malnourished. According to the study, malnutrition decreases an HIV-positive person's ability to absorb the drugs and cope with side effects, and it also prolongs the length of recovery to natural immunity (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/17). In addition, some antiretrovirals need to be taken with food, Paul Farmer, a Harvard University professor and PIH co-founder, said (Armstrong, Reuters India, 8/17). The prospect of running out of food also increases a person's chance of engaging in risky behavior, which increases their risk of contracting HIV, WFP representatives said. Good nutrition also can help people live in relative health between initial HIV infection and the onset of symptoms, according to the World Health Organization. "Funding antiretrovirals with no thought to food and nutrition is a little like paying a fortune to fix a car but not setting aside money to buy gas," Robin Jackson, chief of the WFP's HIV/AIDS service, said, adding, "We cannot win the battle against AIDS by focusing on drugs alone." PIH and WFP representatives said nutrition programs for HIV-positive people face severe funding shortages even though people living with the virus often say food is their most urgent need. HIV-positive people usually require six months of emergency rations before they can begin providing food for themselves. According to WFP estimates, 13.8 million people will need access to HIV/AIDS care by 2008, and of those, 6.4 million will need nutritional support. In addition, out of the 6.6 million HIV-positive people who will need access to antiretrovirals, 0.9 million will need food aid, according to WFP. A nutritional program for HIV-positive people would cost $1.1 billion from 2006 through 2008, which represents 2% of the $55 billion required to tackle the pandemic over the same time period, according to WFP (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/17).
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