This year’s World AIDS Day on the 1 December 2011 enjoys the full support of the British Dietetic Association (BDA). The BDA, which also has a specialist initiative called Dietitians in HIV and AIDS (DHIVA), highlights the vital importance of good nutrition for those living with HIV and AIDS.

Thanks to antiretroviral treatment, which suppresses the HIV-virus, those infected with the virus live longer and healthier lives. To maintain all aspects of good health, as well as a strong immune system, it is vitally important to keep a balanced diet, which together with antitrovirals helps those infected with HIV to feel better and manage their disease.

HIV-infected individuals have a tendency to develop high cholesterol, diabetes and osteoporosis, partially caused by side effects from some antiretroviral medications. In addition to helping the body’s immune system function, good nutrition keeps the gut healthy, improves the absorption of drugs and nutrients, and also helps in treating and preventing high levels of cholesterol and body fat changes.

A balanced diet combined with activity and exercise can help to maintain an ideal weight and decrease the risk for developing diseases, such as osteoporosis and diabetes. It is scientifically proven that obtaining regular assessment and advice from a dietitian can prevent developing HIV-related high cholesterol.

Dietitians in DHIVA offer medical nutrition therapy and specialist tailor-made advice to each HIV-infected individual to help them eat well and maintain their health.

Alastair Duncan, a registered Dietitian and Chair of the BDA group DHIVA explained:

“Nutritional interventions for those living with HIV are so important to help maintain a strong and healthy body. I would strongly urge anyone who has been diagnosed with HIV to ask their treating doctor or nurse to refer them to a specialist Dietitian or to the excellent charity ‘The Food Chain’ if you live in London.”

There is only one specialist charity in the UK, called The Food Chain, which focuses on nutrition to support those living with HIV, as well as their dependents. For those struggling to access appropriate nutrition, there is a range of practical services available with more than 900 volunteers delivering services across London, including tailored meals, cookery, groceries and nutritional education.

Written by Petra Rattue