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World Food Program: Hunger Weakens Fight Against AIDS

The United Nations World Food Program, WFP, said food is critical in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It said people who do not have enough to eat lack the strength to fight off diseases, often leading to early death for HIV sufferers.

The World Food Program notes that 95 percent of the 40 million people infected with HIV/AIDS live in poor or developing countries. It said chronic poverty and hunger contribute to every health crisis suffered by the poor and HIV/AIDS is no exception. WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said people tend to overlook the link between hunger and the swift progression of HIV/AIDS.

"We need the world to recognize that there is a very, very strong link between malnutrition, lack of food and the development of this disease. The lack of food does not develop AIDS, obviously, but what it does is, it weakens a body which is already very weakened. So, it means that people are going to die sooner (rather) than later. They will be weaker sooner. They will catch diseases like cholera, malaria and tuberculosis before they should do it," she said. World Health Organization studies show many poor people diagnosed with HIV die of diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria, even before they develop AIDS. Ms. Berthiaume said food aid can help stave off the illnesses that often claim AIDS victims.

"When we talk in the field to people who are sick, the first thing they tell us is that what they need is food. And we at WFP are convinced that by giving them food, we will keep them in better health for a longer period of time. And, that is very important. But, obviously, it is a little difficult to convince people that if you want to fight against that disease, yes, you need medication (and) education, but you need, as well, food," she said.

Ms. Berthiaume said the problem is most acute in sub-Saharan Africa, where 75 percent of the world's AIDS victims live.