Living with HIV/AIDS       Back to: Introduction and Reports            Main Page             Home

Eating correctly is one of the most important considerations when living positively with HIV. The nutritional status
of any person infected with HIV is known to play a vital role in slowing down the progression of HIV to AIDS, as good
nutrition helps the body's immune system to function better. Eating right can also help the body to stay stronger during
any medical treatment as well as in decreasing the severity of secondary infections

Healthy eating guidelines
A healthy diet means eating a variety of foods each day that will provide all the nutrients the body needs to stay strong
and fight infection. Choose foods from the following groups of foods each day:

Fruits and vegetables
This group provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to fight infection. A wide variety of fruits
and vegetables should be eaten every day, including fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin A ( spinach, pumpkin
leaves, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, apricots, paw-paws and mangoes) and vitamin C ( oranges, naartjies, grapefruit,
lemons, guavas, mangoes, tomatoes, maroelas and sweet peppers)

Meat and dairy foods
All forms of meat ( beef, pork and chicken) and fish, eggs and dairy products ( maas, milk, yoghurt) may be eaten daily.
Foods from these animal sources provide the body with proteins to buld strong muscles, and they also help to keep
the immune system healthy.

Dried beans, peas, lentils, peanuts and soya
This group of foods from plant sources also supplies proteins needed to strengthen the immune system and muscles.
More cooked dried beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, peanut butter and soya beans should be included as part of a healthy
eating plan for people with HIV/AIDS.

Breads and cereals
This group of foods should form the basis of every meal and they are foods such cereals, breads, potatoes, millet, rice
and pasta.

Sugars, fats and oils
Margarine, butter, oil, cream, nuts and sugar provide the body with much needed energy as well as essential fatty acids
and fat soluble vitamins. Cakes, pastries, biscuits, cookies, tarts, puddings and desserts may be included especially
after infections to help with weight gain. Enrich vegetables stews and porridge by adding additional butter, margarine or
cream, as tolerated. Note that in later stages of HIV-infection, eating a lot of fat can cause diarrhoea.

Clean, safe water
Diarrhoea, vomiting and night sweats can cause dramatic loss of water from the body. To avoid dehydration replace daily
losses by drinking more clean, safe fluids ( water, soup, cold drinks, sports drinks, milk, fruit juice)

Vitamins - what, how much and when
Vitamin pills cannot make up for eating well and there is no specific vitamin pill that will cure HIV/AIDS. People living with
HIV/AIDS do have higher needs of certain vitamins and minerals and it may therefore be useful to take a multivitamin and
mineral supplement but be consistent and take them regularly.

Coping with some of the symptoms of HIV/AIDS

Nausea and vomiting
Eat small frequent meals and avoid high fat, greasy foods. Avoid lying down after eating. Food is best tolerated at cool
or room temperature. Dry, salty crackers, pretzels, biscuits and cookies as well as simple foods such as mashed potato,
rice, scrambled egg, noodles, yoghurt and custard may be tolerated. Allow plenty of fresh air in the house and disperse
cooking odours.

Losing weight
Eat snacks out of your mealtimes so that you are eating at least six smaller meals each day. Simple ingredients such
as sugar, oil, peanut butter, egg and skim milk milk powder can be used in porridge, soups, gravies, casseroles or milk-
based drinks to increase the energy and protein content. Add generous amounts of sugar, butter, peanut butter, margarine,
cheese, mayonnaise and cream to food, as tolerated. Meal-replacement drinks such as Ensure, Nutren Active and
Complan are also recommended to boost nutritional status and weight gain.

Diarrhoea
Try to eat six small meals a day. Fluid replacement is essential to prevent dehydration. Water is good, but soups and
fruit juices will supply more energy and vitamins.
A low fat diet is often better tolerated and a dairy free diet could help minimise symptoms. Avoid gas-forming foods and
drinks such as peas, lentils, cabbage, broccoli, onion, nuts, cucumber, garlic and beer. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, since
both may have a dehydrating effect. Eat more foods rich in soluble fibre such as fruit, oats, beans, peas and lentils, as
well as foods rich in potassium such as bananas, potatoes, apricot juice and tomato juice.

Sore mouth
choose moist, soft foods at cool or room temperature. Mashed potato, minced meat, soups, pasta dishes such as
macaroni and cheese, ice cream, custard and puddings are examples. Drink through a straw and avoid carbonated
drinks as well as spicy and acidic foods. Look after the hygiene of your mouth - if your gums are painful and you cannot
brush your teeth, rinse your mouth with a bit of bicarbonate of soda mixed in water. For difficulties with swallowing try
providing smooth, thick and cold consistencies such as yoghurt, thick custard, smooth soup and sauces.

Food safety
Food safety is of utmost importance as when the body's immune system is weakened the body is less able to
fight off germs.
To guard against illness carried in food, it has to be stored, handled and prepared in a safe way.