Poor nutrition and weight loss increase the risk of illness and even death in HIV-infected people, according to an April 2003 article in "Clinical Infectious Diseases." Nutritional status may be compromised by complications of the disease, as well as the medications used to treat it. While a healthy diet is a good place to start, diet modifications may be necessary to manage various aspects of the disease and in people whose HIV has progressed to AIDS. It's important to note that there is no special diet or food that can cure or treat HIV infection 1.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Getting What You Need
Due to the effects the disease has on your immune system, HIV infection increases your calorie needs. The infection also has a tendency to affect your appetite and impair nutrient absorption, however. All these factors may make it difficult for you to get the nutrition you need to maintain your weight and lean body mass. Regular visits with a registered dietitian specializing in HIV, along with close monitoring of diet, are recommended to help manage weight and disease.
Medication and Diet
Many of the medications used to treat HIV may also alter nutritional status. Taking certain antiretrovirals with or without food may alter absorption and effectiveness of the medication, according to the authors of the article in "Clinical Infectious Diseases." These medications may also cause gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or malabsorption or a poor appetite. Such problems may require diet modifications, such as a low-fat diet, to manage. Due to the advances in medical treatment, however, these medications are also causing weight gain and increasing the risk of heart disease, and a heart-healthy diet may be necessary.
Food and Water Safety
When CD4 count is low, less than 200, it's important to pay attention to food preparation and handling to prevent food-borne illness. Avoid raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, meat and fish, as well as unpasteurized dairy products and juices and raw sprouts. It's also important to wash your hands before and after you eat, cook and reheat protein foods to an appropriate temperature and wash raw fruits and vegetables before consuming them.
Need for Supplements
Many people with HIV do not meet their daily vitamin and mineral needs, according to "Clinical Infectious Diseases." Vitamin and mineral supplementation may be necessary if there are specific deficiencies. In addition, people with HIV on antiretrovirals are at an increased risk for bone disease, according to a December 2012 article published in "Topics in Antiviral Medicine," and supplementing with additional calcium and vitamin D may be beneficial.
- Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations: Special Eating Needs for People Living With HIV/AIDS
- Annals of Internal Medicine: Associations Between HIV Infection and Subclinical Coronary Atherosclerosis: The Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS)
- AIDS Info: Guidelines for Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: HIV/AIDS Evidence-Based Nutrition Practice Guidelines
- kazoka30/iStock/Getty Images