The British Dietetic Association (BDA) is fully supporting World AIDS Day (01 December 2013), by highlighting the vital importance of good nutrition for those living with HIV and AIDS. The BDA also has a specialist group working in this field called Dietitians in HIV and AIDS (DHIVA).

The BDA, founded in 1936, is the professional association for dietitians in the United Kingdom. It is the nation's largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 7,000 members. DHIVA is the HIV/AIDS specialist group of the BDA, founded in 1993. It aims to support the work of dietitians in the area if HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases through the promotion of high quality evidence-based food and nutrition practice (dietetics). The group acts as a voice for specialist dietitians at a national level, but also provides resources and support for dietitians in the UK and abroad.

People living with HIV are living longer and healthier lives thanks to antiretroviral therapy which suppresses the virus. A balanced diet is important to maintain all aspects of good health including a strong immune system. Together, antiretrovirals and good nutrition are partners in helping people to feel better and manage their disease.

"People living with HIV are more likely to develop high cholesterol, diabetes and osteoporosis, partly as a side effect of some of the antiretroviral medicines," said Karen Percy, spokesperson for the BDA and Chairman of the BDA's DHIVA specialist group. "As well as playing a role in helping the immune system function better, good nutrition can keep the gut to enhance absorption of nutrients and drugs, and it can also help treat and prevent high cholesterol and body fat changes. Together, a balanced diet, activity and exercise can help maintain an ideal weight and reduce the risk for developing diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis. Research has shown that regular assessment and advice from a dietitian prevents development of HIV-related high cholesterol."

Specialist dietitians provide medical nutrition therapy and specialist individually-tailored advice to help support people living with HIV to eat well and be healthy.

"Nutritional interventions for those living with HIV are so important to help maintain a strong and healthy body," Karen continued. "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."

Karen Percy is a dietitian, previously working in the Australian health care system prior to moving to the UK in 2006. In 2009 Karen was appointed as the Lead Dietitian in the Multi-disciplinary Team of HIV and Infectious Disease at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. She currently is also the team lead dietitian for the adult acute services.