Starvation, Malnutrition Threatening Fight Against HIV/AIDS Pandemic, Experts Say
Starvation and malnutrition are "fast becoming the twin perils" in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and the need for food soon might surpass the need for antiretroviral drugs among many HIV-positive people in the developing world, the AP/ABC2 News reports. According to the U.N. World Food Programme, an estimated 3.8 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide needed food support this year, and 6.4 million might need support by 2008. In addition, a study published in the journal HIV Medicine found that malnourished HIV-positive people are six times more likely to die when using antiretroviral drugs compared with HIV-positive people with adequate nutrition (Jacobs, AP/ABC2 News, 11/9). According to experts, poverty and hunger also cause people to engage in high-risk sexual behavior to earn money for food. In addition, malnourished people are more likely to contract HIV during unprotected sex, Stuart Gillespie, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, said (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/4). Robin Jackson, chief of the WFP's HIV/AIDS service, said that HIV-positive people who are malnourished should not be given antiretrovirals because the drugs will not be effective and can cause severe stomach aches and nausea when not taken with food. According to the AP/ABC2 News, the WFP has launched nutrition programs -- which provide food supplements for HIV-positive people and their families -- in Haiti and 50 other countries with high numbers of HIV cases. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health, said that although health workers do not want to be food distributors, health providers "need to be in the business of handing out food" because "[w]hen you have the meds and don't have the food ... then the bigger problem becomes food security" (AP/ABC2 News, 11/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.