For individuals living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), one of the major concerns is having the right diet in order to keep the body in a state where fighting infections would be easier.
Due to the nature of the virus, as it weakens its victim’s immune system, eating right can strengthen the immune system and help the body maintain its defences against germs.
A good diet helps persons living with HIV fight off infections as it delivers the necessary nutrients the body needs to be strong.
Aside boosting the immune system, a good diet can also help one avoid health complications and ease problems brought by HIV and its treatment.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), HIV occurs mostly in populations where malnutrition is already an endemic, therefore creating an urgent need for renewed focus on nutrition as a fundamental part of a comprehensive package of care for people living with the disease.
As a result, WHO also advised that focused evidence-based nutrition interventions should be part of all national Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) control and treatment programmes.
The body also released a report on nutrient requirements for people living with HIV/AIDS (Geneva, 13–15 May 2003), on which a portion of this article is based.
Although there is no specific diet for people living with HIV, adequate nutrition can be achieved by maintaining a balanced and healthy diet. It is important that one understands how eating right affects these people.
Energy giving food (Carbohydrates)
Due to the presence of the virus in the body, energy requirements are likely to increase by 10 per cent. This is to maintain body weight and physical activity for HIV-infected adults showing no symptoms of the disease. This also applies to pregnant and HIV infected lactating women
For adults showing symptoms and during AIDS, the body will require approximately 20 to 30 per cent more energy to maintain body weight.
For infected children showing no symptoms of HIV, energy requirements are likely to increase by 10 per cent to sustain growth.
Infected children experiencing weight loss would need their energy intake increased by 50 to 100 per cent over normal requirements.
Energy giving foods include, whole grains, yams, cassava, potatoes, bread, and pasta, among others.
Body Building Foods (Protein)
The need for an increase in the consumption of protein for people living with HIV or AIDS is not negotiable as the immune system is made up of proteins and relies on new protein fusion or synthesis to function.
People living with HIV or AIDS are required to increase their intake of protein by 12 to 15 per cent above normal requirements for health.
Food rich in protein include, soya beans, eggs (egg white in particular), Greek yoghurt (with no added sugar), milk, oats, chicken breast, broccoli, lean beef and Tuna, among other foods.
Fats intake may not necessarily need to increase due the presence HIV or AIDS in a person’s body as the body requirements may not be different.
Special advice regarding fat intake might be required for individuals undergoing antiretroviral therapy or experiencing persistent diarrhea. For this, a doctor or dietician should be consulted.
Examples of food rich in healthy fats are, avocado, whole eggs, cheese, dark chocolate, coconuts and coconut oil, fish containing Omega-3, and full-fat yoghurt, among other foods.
Fruits and Vegetables
Plenty of fruits and vegetables are needed to provide vitamins, minerals and fibre, for the body.
Examples of fruits and vegetables include, oranges, pineapple, watermelon, apples, grapes, celery, spinach, carrots, and lettuce among others.
It is advised that people infected with HIV (adults and children) consume healthy diets to ensure micronutrient intakes at the recommended daily allowance levels.
According to the WHO, improved attention to diet and nutrition may enhance Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) acceptability, adherence and effectiveness in HIV or AIDS patients.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, Dapo Morawo, a medical practitioner and CEO, De-Vine Hospital, confirmed that a balanced diet is needed for people living with the ailment.
He also said the consumption of protein is a vital need to boost their immune system.
Knowing your food as a person living with HIV or AIDS is very important to lead a healthy lifestyle, he adds.