News / Africa

Study: HIV, Food Insecurity Closely Linked

Food Security, HIV/AIDS Treatment and Prevention Closely Linked
Food Security, HIV/AIDS Treatment and Prevention Closely Linked

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
A new study says Africa suffers from a co-epidemic of HIV/AIDS and food insecurity. Researchers say treatment and better nutrition go hand-in-hand in controlling the epidemic.


Dr. Sheri Weiser said when people fall ill due to HIV, accessing food becomes “progressively more difficult.”

“Food insecurity and HIV are interacting like a vicious cycle to worsen the severity as well as enhancing vulnerability to the other condition,” she said.

Weiser is an assistant professor of medicine at the HIV/AIDS Division at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. She’s also the study’s principal investigator.

“We started having data from Botswana and Swaziland showing that food insecurity was increasing risky sexual practices. So you saw women who were exchanging sex in order to get food to feed their children or having difficulty insisting on condom use when they were dependent on their partner for food. And that food insecurity was also worsening vulnerability to sexual violence. And all of these were contributing to driving HIV,” she said.

A person infected by HIV is further weakened by poor nutrition. That’s an additional blow to the immune system.

“We saw that food insecurity was driving increases in opportunistic infections, worse response to treatment, making it really difficult for people to take their medications and adhere to their medications and even leading to increased mortality. And interestingly, we saw this not only in sub-Saharan Africa but also in San Francisco and elsewhere in North America,” said Weiser.

The cycle continues when people get sicker and they are unable to find a job to buy food. And stigma from HIV can make it more difficult to find support from others.

Weiser said that at the beginning of the study, 80 percent of those infected with HIV had some level of food insecurity. That began to change when they were given antiretroviral therapy or ART.

“After time on ART and after we followed participants for approximately two years we saw very steep declines in food insecurity. And at the same time we saw parallel increases in their nutritional status and their quality of life and physical health status. So what this really shows is that ART does contribute to a decline in food insecurity,” she said.

Dr. David Bangsberg, director of the Center for Global Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, is the senior author of the study.

He said, “The expansion of HIV treatment in Africa has made great progress in making people healthier and stronger, such that they can return to work and grow food or security meaningful economic employment to purchase food for themselves and their family. So HIV treatment helps improve access to food in a very significant way.”

But Bangsberg added that getting people on antiretroviral therapy does not mean they will stay on it. One reason, he says, is a possible side effect of the drugs.

“As they get better and their bodies begin to recover their appetite returns and experience severe hunger pains in their first few weeks of HIV treatment. Some patients attribute these hunger pains to a side effect to treatment and then some of those will then stop treatment in order to mitigate the hunger pains. Clearly the best response is not to stop treatment, but rather to help someone have access to food.”

Both Bangsberg and Weiser are sharing their findings with U.N. humanitarian agencies and officials from PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

They warn though that the dual issue of HIV and food insecurity is not just an African problem. They say the same conditions exist among the urban poor in North America, including such cities as San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston and Vancouver. They say as many as 50 percent of HIV infected people in those areas, who are on treatment, are food insecure. 

The study’s findings can be found in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

You May Like

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid