Living healthfully with HIV infection

world aids day


HIV-infected patients may be at nutritional risk at any point in their illness. Severe malnutrition and weight loss, particularly loss of lean tissue, and delayed weight gain and height velocity in children, can affect morbidity and mortality

During symptomatic HIV, and subsequently during AIDS, energy requirements increase by approximately 20% to 30% to maintain adult body weight. Energy intakes need to be increased by 50% to 100% over normal requirements in children experiencing weight loss

Dietary intake of micronutrients at RDA levels may not be sufficient to correct nutritional deficiencies in HIV-infected individuals. Some micronutrient supplements, e.g. vitamin A, zinc and iron, can produce adverse outcomes in HIV-infected populations. Hence these should be consumed only as per requirements.

The importance of nutrition for the immune system has well been established. HIV nutrition practitioners commonly recommend that patients take daily multivitamin mineral based supplements that provides 100% of RDA and a basic B – complex supplements. Ensuring sufficient micronutrient intake is more important in the diet of HIV patients because of their varied functions in the body:

Vitamin A

  • Increases resistance to infections.
  • Lowers the risk of transmission of HIV from pregnant women to child.
  • Decreases the frequency of bacterial, viral and parasitic infections.
  • Acts as an antioxidant.

Beta Carotene:

  • Enhances lymphocyte production.
  • Enables growth and development of cells.
  • Acts as an antioxidant and helps in utilization of free radicals(binds to the free radicals).

Vitamin C

  • Enhances movements of phagocytes(which affects both antigen presentation and microbe killing.
  • Acts as antioxidant.
  • Promotes resistance to infections through its involvement with the immunological activity of leukocytes, process of inflammatory reaction and integrity of the mucus membranes.

Vitamin E

  • It is the most important lipid soluble antioxidant in the cell.
  • Makes cell membranes more stable.
  • Protects against environmental toxins.


  • Necessary for cell proliferation.
  • Deficiency causes immunosuppression.
  • Iron deficiency anaemia may be seen in HIV +ve adolescents.  It can result from failure of the bone marrow or a result of destructive cell processes.


  • Decreases risk of serious viral, bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Increases antibody production
  • Prevents HIV replication


  • Important in reducing virulence of HIV
  • Slowing disease progression

While prevention is better than cure, people with HIV can often live a long & productive life even with the diseases if they follow the right diet & take the right medications.

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