The Relationship between Nutrition and HIV

Good nutrition is an important part of maintaining health and well being in PLHIV including for pre-ART clients, clients receiving ART and HIV-exposed and HIV-infected infants and children.Good nutrition does not replace the need for medical care. Instead, having a good, balanced diet is part of a person’s overall HIV care and treatment plan.

Good nutrition is important for PLHIV because it can:

  • Make muscles, skin and bones healthy
  • Provide energy
  • Protect against infections
  • Prevent weight loss
  • Help medicines get absorbed into the body
  • Help prevent or reduce side effects of some ARVs
  • Decrease the amount of time it takes to get better after an illness
  • Help women who are pregnant and breastfeeding to stay healthy
  • Help children living with HIV grow well

Poor nutrition can lead to:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased number and seriousness of infections and illness
  • Slower healing process
  • Getting sicker more often and faster
  • Poorer response to treatment
  • Poor growth in children

Good nutrition is important for all PLHIV, even if they are not ill, because it can help maintain weight and fight off infections and illnesses. The
sooner a client starts to eat enough nutritious foods, the better. Once a person loses weight or becomes very ill, the harder it is to put weight back on. Once a person becomes sick with AIDS, eating enough and the right foods is also important to help gain weight and become healthy again.

Pay attention to what foods your doctor or pharmacist says should not be taken with your medication.

  • The Comprehensive Peer Educator Training Curriculum: Trainer Manual International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs, Columbia University