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HIV/AIDS, undernutrition and food insecurity

This article unpicks the links between nutrition and HIV/AIDS, and looks how to break the cycle between the two. Every year millions of dollars are pumped into tackling HIV/AIDS including antiretrovirals and research for vaccines and drugs. But poor nutrition remains a major barrier to preventing sickness and death from the virus.

The effects of poor nutrition on HIV status are clear: malnourishment weakens the immune system. But it also has indirect non-biological effects. For example, a lack of food can trigger dangerous coping strategies such as selling sex for food or selling assets, both of which lead to economic instability and a higher risk of HIV infection.

People with HIV are less able to absorb nutrients. And crucially, undernutrition also affects the ability of HIV-infected people to process antiretrovirals such as nevirapine.

The authors call for better targeting of food aid to HIV-infected people.