HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. If a person does not receive treatment for HIV, they may develop AIDS. People with HIV or AIDS need a diet that can boost their immunity. A balanced eating plan can also help them cope with the symptoms of their condition and the medication side effects.
Eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals can be beneficial for people living with HIV or AIDS. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are good sources of nutrients.
Due to impaired immunity, individuals with HIV or AIDS should follow extra precautions to avoid getting foodborne infections. This includes measures such as avoiding eating raw fish and undercooked eggs.
This article discusses the importance of nutrition and food safety for people living with HIV or AIDS. It also lists the foods to include and avoid and offers tips on how to manage eating-related problems people with HIV or AIDS may have.
Good nutrition is beneficial for everyone, but it is especially important for people living with HIV or AIDS, who have various health challenges. One of these is impaired immunity.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the immune system of a person with HIV has to work harder to fight infections, which requires more energy. For this reason, they may need to eat more food.
HIV and AIDS can also cause weight loss. This is a common problem for people whose HIV has advanced. This is because the infection can reduce appetite and make a person too tired to eat.
Difficulty eating that results in weight loss may also occur due to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and mouth sores.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), eating a nutritious diet has various benefits for people with HIV or AIDS, including:
Importance of food safety and hygiene
The reduced immunity due to HIV and AIDS makes a person more susceptible to foodborne illnesses.
Germs in food and water can cause infections that last longer and are more serious in people with HIV or AIDS than they are in someone with healthy immunity.
Therefore, in addition to eating nutritiously, those with the conditions should take extra precautions when cooking and eating.
The VA offers the following recommendations:
Water may also contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites. To avoid becoming ill from contaminated water, a person may wish to buy a water filter to install in their home.
A person living with HIV or AIDS may also consider using only boiled water for cooking and drinking.
Foods to include
The AND recommends eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals, as the body needs these for immunity, healthy blood cells, and other aspects of wellness.
Such foods include:
In addition, people with HIV should drink 8–10 glasses of water or other fluids per day, as it:
Learn about 15 benefits of drinking water here.
Creating a balanced eating plan
The VA recommends the following for a person with HIV:
Foods to avoid
Foods and beverages people with HIV or AIDS should avoid include:
How to manage eating difficulties
The VA offers advice on managing various eating problems a person with HIV or AIDS may experience.
A person can try to increase their appetite by doing the following:
Learn about appetite stimulants here.
To manage nausea, a person can take the following steps:
People can try to manage diarrhea in the following ways:
Managing difficulty swallowing
To manage difficulty swallowing, individuals can take the following steps:
Preventing weight loss
To prevent weight loss, a person should consume more of the following:
The role of a dietitian
If a person has difficulty eating, they should consult a registered dietitian. They can ask a doctor for a referral to one who has experience with people living with HIV or AIDS.
Not everyone with HIV has the same symptoms of the infection or the same side effects of medication. Also, some individuals with HIV may have other conditions that a balanced diet can help with.
A dietitian can tailor a diet to meet a person’s specific nutritional needs.
If a person has HIV or AIDS, the right nutrition and diet can help their immune system fight infections.
Certain eating practices can also help manage an array of eating problems that people living with HIV or AIDS experience, such as nausea and difficulty swallowing.
A balanced diet for people with HIV or AIDS involves fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low fat dairy foods. It also limits the intake of salty and sugary foods, along with foods that are high in saturated and trans fats.