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Food and nutrition boost effectiveness of HIV treatment

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today highlighted the importance of nutrition support for people living with HIV (PLHIV) at the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP).

WFP and others have successfully advocated for the recognition that food and nutrition are critical components of the global HIV and AIDS response. Improving the nutritional status of people undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV is recognized as a vital part of comprehensive HIV care.

“Without adequate nutrition, malnourished people living with HIV experience reduced treatment effectiveness as well as a lower tolerance to the drugs,” said Dr. Martin W. Bloem, M.D., director of the Nutrition and HIV/AIDS Policy division at WFP. “We are placing greater emphasis on the integration of nutritional care for those infected with HIV reached through the health sector,” he added.

In Asia, HIV prevalence is lower than in other regions of the world. There are an estimated five million PLHIV in Asia. WFP currently implements AIDS programmes in 10 countries in the Asia and the Pacific region – all of which support efforts to move towards universal access to HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and care. These programmes target both individuals and their families, providing them with food and nutrition support.

In India, WFP has partnered with the government’s National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) to provide a fortified food product called NutriPLUS – along with nutrition counselling - to more than 15,000 PLHIV receiving ART over a 15-month period. Results have demonstrated a significant improvement in the overall nutritional status of beneficiaries receiving both NutriPLUS and ART.

WFP’s future plans to respond to HIV and AIDS in the region will focus on creating additional joint programmes with national governments, UN agencies, and private sector and NGO partners. WFP will also seek to influence policy frameworks and discussions using evidence of the successes of integrated nutrition support into HIV treatment and enhance understanding of the drivers of the epidemic in Asia among the most at-risk populations.

“Every government has the responsibility of including nutrition as an essential part of their HIV response,” said Professor Emeritus Praphan Phanuphak, M.D., PhD., Director of Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre and guest speaker at WFP’s special ICAAP briefing session which explored the role of nutrition in the context of HIV treatment in countries such as Thailand, India and Bangladesh.

In October 2003, WFP became the ninth co-sponsor of UNAIDS, joining other UN agencies and organisations in a common campaign to help to prevent new HIV/AIDS infections, care for those already infected and mitigate the impact of the epidemic. WFP currently implements AIDS programmes in 51 countries worldwide.

by S. C.
22 august 2009, World News > Asia