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Food, nutrition and HIV: what next?

In June 2006, the UN emphasised the crucial role of food and nutrition in mitigating the effects of HIV/AIDS. This briefing paper explains how these issues are intertwined, and analyses why there has been little action in this area so far.

When food is scarce, women tend to get the smallest portion, leading them seek food elsewhere. This might include selling sex for food, putting them at a higher risk of HIV infection. Malnutrition can also weaken the immune system, making it easier to pick up infections but harder to get rid of them.

According to the report, health and food authorities each see it as the other's responsibility to integrate nutrition into HIV programmes. Donors and national policymakers have also been reluctant to support initiatives for integration. The first challenge, says the report, is raising awareness of the UN endorsement to secure action. Donors and governments should work to strengthen links between policies — the responsibility to reduce HIV/AIDS must not rest with the health sector alone. Finally, nutrition indicators should be included in clinical surveillance and reporting.

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