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Diet & Nutrition Tips For People Living With HIV


Living with a chronic illness is a painful and frustrating way to be. There are many factors you must be cautious and careful about, including taking your medications on time, eating right and keeping generally healthy.

HIV is one of the more exacting forms of chronic illness. It takes a massive toll on your physical and mental health, and people living with HIV need to be extremely cautious in their daily lives. If careless, HIV-positive people run the risk of acquiring AIDS, which can often be deadly. Living with HIV can be a lot, however, thanks to modern medication and innovation, it is very doable.

In this article, we will discuss the importance of nutrition for HIV positive people, best food for HIV patient and what they should be on the lookout for.

Nutrition And HIV – What’s The Link?

As someone with HIV, you will have to be very careful with your diet. There is an intrinsic link between HIV, AIDS and nutrition. The disease and medication take a toll on your immune system and physical health. You may face nausea, diarrhoea and extreme weight loss amongst other issues. Ensuring that you take the right nutrition and eat well becomes key to combating these issues.

Depending on the type of medication you are on, your dietary requirements may change from time to time. Good nutrition while HIV positive can have multiple benefits such as –

  • Help manage and alleviate HIV symptoms.
  • Improve your immune system and decrease the chances of infections and complications.
  • Improve overall quality of life.
  • Decrease the side-effects of medications and help the body process them better.

Nutritional Requirements For A Person With HIV

To have an overall healthier lifestyle and to counter some effects of the medication such as increased cholesterol and weakened bones, here are some vitamins and minerals that people with HIV should definitely consume:

1. Vitamin D

An important vitamin for strengthening bones, this should be an integral part of an HIV-positive person’s diet, as their bones can be demineralised (weakened) due to medication. You can find it in fish, milk and through sun exposure.

2. Calcium

Similar to Vitamin D, Calcium is also an essential mineral for bone health. Calcium can be found in dairy products, non-dairy milk, fatty fish and orange juice.

3. Iron

The body uses iron to make haemoglobin, which in turn helps transport oxygen through the body. Controlled amounts of iron is recommended for HIV patients. You can find iron in leafy greens, seafood, red meat and whole-grain bread.

4. Good Fats

Good fats such as those found in olive oil, avocadoes, salmon and nuts, promote cell growth and provide energy.

Dietary Management Of AIDS

As with all diseases that need nutritional intervention, HIV positive people are recommended to eat food rich in vitamins and minerals to boost immunity and improve their quality of life.

5 Best Foods For HIV/AIDS Patient

Some foods to include for a healthy diet for HIV positive person are:

  1. Fruits – oranges, blueberries, peaches, grapes.
  2. Vegetables – cabbage, spinach, beets.
  3. Whole Grains – oats, brown rice, whole grain bread.
  4. Proteins – lean meat, fish, beans, eggs.
  5. Low Fat Dairy Products – low fat milk, cottage cheese, yogurt.

4 Foods That A HIV/AIDS Patient Should Avoid

Similarly, some foods have an adverse effect on your body, especially so when you may be fighting a disease. These foods may lower immunity or interfere with medication.

Some foods you should avoid are:

  1. High salt content food – cold cuts, bread, pizza, sandwiches.
  2. High sugar content food – cake, ice cream, cookies.
  3. Saturated fats and Trans fats – processed foods primarily and fatty cuts of meat.
  4. Alcohol – beer, wine, hard liquor. 

10 Key Food Safety Tips That You Must Remember

When fighting HIV and AIDS, the body has a reduced immunity which leaves it open to illnesses. For a person with compromised immunity, food or water borne infections may last longer and have serious implications.

Therefore, for an HIV positive person, it is imperative that they follow strict HIV nutrition guidelines of food safety and hygiene while preparing their food at all times.

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water before and after preparing the food and eating.
  2. Keep all your utensils clean and free from dirt or crusted food.
  3. Avoid eating packaged food past expiry.
  4. Clean your fruits and vegetables with clean water.
  5. Cook your meat until it is well done.
  6. Avoid raw meats like tartare, sushi and unpasteurised dairy products.
  7. Do not eat eggs that are slightly undercooked, like soft-boiled eggs. Make sure to cook them thoroughly.  
  8. Avoid eating leftovers that have been in your home for more than three days.
  9. Use only boiled water for cooking and drinking.
  10. Always use a water filter at home, and drink only bottled water or safe water while outside the home.

Nutritional Problems Faced By HIV Patients

Over time, due to medication and the progression of disease, your body may undergo many changes if you have HIV. Some of these weight and nutrition related issues are:

  • Malnutrition
  • Loss of muscle
  • Bone Demineralisation
  • High cholesterol, fats and sugars in the blood
  • Lack of vitamins and minerals

How To Prevent HIV Related Weight-Loss?

A conscious change in diet, as well as a consultation with a dietician should be considered to improve your weight and nutritional status while dealing with HIV. Here are some easy recommendations to have the best food for HIV patient:

1. Increase Protein Intake

Add more protein to your diet, a little bit during all your meals will make a considerable difference. This will help improve your muscle mass. Eat yogurt with fruit or add a type of nut butter to your toast during breakfast. Include more lean meats, eggs and fish in your diet as well.  

2. Increase Calorie Intake

As a part of your HIV patient diet, to avoid fatigue and exhaustion, increase your caloric intake. Eat more healthy fats and carbohydrates such as avocados, vegetable oils, fruit and bread.

3. Add A Protein Shake To Your Diet

Make a smoothie or a shake with nutrient dense ingredients to start your day. Use nut butter, Greek yogurt, fruits, vegetables or berries for a nutrient packed drink.

4. Consult A Dietician

People with HIV have different nutritional needs, so make sure you speak to a dietician once before making any major changes. They might even give you a recommended diet plan to follow.

Taking care of yourself is the basis to fighting off any disease, be it an occasional one or chronic one. With HIV, one needs to keep a careful watch on what they’re consuming so that they don’t accidentally expose themselves to an infection. Also remember that a diet for AIDS patient and one for HIV positive people can be very different, so please do not mix the two. 

Be careful with what you put into your body, and always get a professional consultation if you can. Be safe and stay cautious! 

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