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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid