If you are HIV positive, one of the ways you can look after your health is by taking care of what you put in your body. Although you shouldn’t have to make any extreme changes to what you eat, a healthy, varied and balanced diet is especially important for people living with HIV because:
- Poor diet can weaken the immune system
- Some HIV medications need to be taken with food to work effectively
- Some HIV medications change the way the body metabolises, burns and stores fat, and can cause a condition called lipodystrophy. A balanced diet can prevent fat accumulation.
- Some opportunistic infections can cause people living with HIV to lose their appetite and therefore you eat less food. It has been proven that HIV positive people burn around 10% more calories at rest than HIV negative people, so you could potentially be eating less and using more energy.
Avert recommends that HIV positive people should consume 10% more calories than the usual guideline amount.
You should make sure that your diet includes a mixture of:
- Fruit and Vegetables: remember your five a day! Fruit and vegetables (including fruit juice and dried fruit) are proven to protect your body from heart disease and various cancers.
- Carbohydrates: such as cereals, pasta, rice and potatoes
- Protein: such as meat, beans, eggs and fish.
- Fats: a balanced diet includes making sure your body gets enough “friendly” fats. These can be found in oils, butter, cheese, milk and meat and are essential for giving you energy. Dairy products also contain vitamins and and minerals such as calcium.
- Multivitamins: in some cases these have been shown to increase the length of time before someone living with HIV becomes ill.
- Water: if you are taking anti-HIV treatment, it is especially important to consume enough water to enable your body to process the drugs correctly and to help avoid side effects. If you are experiencing side effects such as diarrhoea and vomiting, you risk losing vital fluid in your body which then needs to be replaced.
For more information on maintaining a healthy diet if you are living with HIV, and for recipe ideas formed with HIV positive people in mind, go to Foodchain. Many HIV clinics have dieticians who will be able to help further with your individual needs and budget.
Take a look at the next slide to see our booklet on nutrition, children and HIV.