WHO Director-General Lee Appeals for Better Nutrition for HIV-Positive PeopleWorld Health Organization Director-General Jong-Wook Lee on Monday at the start of a three-day conference in Durban, South Africa, aimed at developing strategies to improve the health of HIV-positive people said that greater attention needs to be paid to the nutrition problems HIV/AIDS patients face, Xinhuanet reports. Lee told the conference of health specialists and social workers from 20 eastern and southern African countries that 95% of the world's HIV-positive people live in poorer countries, and many of them struggle to get enough to eat. "We do know that sound nutrition helps maintain the immune system, increase body weight and boosts energy levels," Lee said in a speech at the conference, adding that in Africa "AIDS patients are frequently admitted to hospital already malnourished." Lee also said, "Most of the 30 million HIV-infected people in Africa don't even have secure access to the basic nutrients any human being needs to live a healthy life." He added that the benefits of investing in antiretroviral drug programs could be in jeopardy if people receiving treatment are not properly nourished, according to Xinhuanet (Xinhuanet, 4/11). According to WHO, studies have shown that HIV-positive people have greater caloric requirements on average than HIV-negative people and that good nutrition could delay progression from HIV to AIDS-related diseases, IANS/Keralanext.com reports (IANS/Keralanext.com, 4/11). South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said that many HIV-positive people suffering from malnutrition lack not only food, but also correct nutritional information. Conference participants will make recommendations for immediate actions in Africa to improve the health and nutrition of people living with HIV/AIDS, Xinhuanet reports (Xinhuanet, 4/11).
Lee, Morris Opinion Piece
Although good nutrition is a "critical aspect of the care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS," it has been "ignored" by the international community, Lee and James Morris, executive director of the World Food Programme, write in a opinion piece in Japan's Daily Yomiuri. Ensuring HIV-positive people have the basic recommended levels of micronutrients and "adequate energy" should be the "bare-minimum" standard, Lee and Morris say, adding that the Durban conference should "trigger governments and donors to integrate nutrition in their HIV/AIDS policies and programs," which could "provide huge savings" for both entities. HIV/AIDS "is not a disease that can be tackled by medicine alone, but one which demands an integrated approach to people's physical, nutrition and health needs," Lee and Morris say, concluding, "AIDS patients in the Western world have never been allowed to starve while receiving antiretroviral treatment. We shouldn't allow it to happen elsewhere, either" (Lee/Morris, Daily Yomiuri, 4/10).