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Food to be combined with treatment

Secretariat of the Pacific Community

International AIDS Conference

Food to be combined with treatment

Toronto, 16 August- Without nutritious food, HIV treatment is unlikely to succeed said Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy for HIV & AIDS to Africa at a World Food Organisation press conference on Day Four of the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto. In contrast, treatment combined with nutritious food is often dramatically effective.

Unfortunately, in many cases food is left out of treatment programmes with people sometimes having to choose between dying from AIDS or hunger. AIDS usually wins.

Others get caught in a vicious circle. Farmers for instance cannot work to feed their families when suffering from the debilitating side effects of their treatment.

“Everybody knows health depends on nutritious food, and this is true whether for prevention of mother to child transmission, orphans, people on antiretroviral treatment or home-based care,” said Lewis.

“The best experts on this are people living with HIV. They tell me they need more nutritious food, but governments tend not to listen and they are marginalised in their quest for food. Ministries of Health need to work more closely with Ministries of Agriculture.”

Access to food may not be as problematic in the Pacific as in parts of Africa and Asia, but ensuring access to nutritious food should become an integral part of all treatment for people living with HIV.

“A comprehensive approach to care and treatment means more than just providing antiretroviral drugs,” said Dr Dennie Iniakwala, of SPC’s HIV & STI Section. “According to the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on the clinical stages of the HIV, not all people living with HIV are eligible for, or need, antiretroviral therapy. In some cases, the best and only care needed at the time of diagnosis is a healthy diet and lifestyle and careful monitoring.”

According to the World Food Programme, 3.8 million people affected by HIV need nutritional support in 2006. This will increase to 6.4 milllion by 2008.

The total cost of providing support is $1.1 billion over three years, which is 2 per cent of the estimated total cost of fighting the epidemic.

Ends

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