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AIDS and Malnutrition: a Silent Killer Combination


The World Health Organization says 60 percent of childhood deaths in developing countries are related to malnutrition. And the lack of proper food is also playing a role in the fight against AIDS. Experts in the field are discussing the correlation during this week's International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada. VOA's Melinda Smith narrates the report.

The World Health Organization says more than six million children under the age of five die from malnutrition each year. Experts at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada say the prevention and treatment of AIDS will be nearly impossible without adequate nutrition. Stuart Gillespie is a researcher on AIDS and nutrition.

"There is simply no way that we can engage in HIV response while ignoring nutrition, because we are ultimately not going to be successful," said the expert from the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Gillespie says people who are extremely poor or malnourished are at greater risk of being infected with HIV. He says those people are more likely to contract severe illnesses. "There is a vicious cycle within the human body, in the way the virus interacts with nutrition status. The virus makes the person more malnourished and if the person is malnourished the virus spreads faster."

Gillespie highlighted the importance of combining nutritional support with drug therapy for the treatment of AIDS. He said a malnourished patient is six times more likely to die during treatment that a properly fed patient.

He also says progress is being made on a small scale. But he says there is much more work to be done to combat the deadly combination of malnutrition and AIDS.