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January 2016: Sharing our Food Chain knowledge

We quite often get asked why our services are still needed, and why nutrition is important for people living with HIV.

Most people understand that good nutrition helps people live healthier, longer lives but they are not sure why this might be of greater importance for someone with HIV than for anyone else. Or what a big difference it can make to someone’s daily life.

We have learned a great deal about the nutritional needs of people living with HIV in London over the years, and about the impact our services can have, and we are pleased to be able to share some of our learning nationally this year.

Recent research findings from the USA suggest there is an association between food insecurity and incomplete viral suppression.

People who are not able to access a healthy diet are more likely to have a higher viral load, even when they are taking antiretroviral medication.

We wanted to know what our own information might show about relationships between nutritional and socio-economic factors. Following the analysis of data relating to 132 people who have received our services, we have produced a research paper that explores these links.

37.1% of our group were receiving no income and were at a high risk of food insecurity. The analysis also revealed the particular vulnerability of those with a combination of a low Body Mass Index, White ethnicity and male gender. For some of our service users there is also a risk associated with being overweight as a result of a poor diet – for those on low incomes buying filling, cheaper food is an essential choice, even if it does not have the best nutritional value, and adds weight.

In this context our nutrition support is a preventative measure that can help reduce a potentially negative impact on viral load, and the nutrition education we provide is vital to help people achieve a healthy weight, even on a low income.

We think it is important to share our learning as widely as possible, so during the year we will produce more information about our findings, and we will also be attending some key HIV sector conferences to speak about our work. We’ll tell you all about it as we go along!

Continuing my sampling of the recipes in Nourish’, this week I made the Cottage Pie with Parsnip Mash. It was a particularly grey, rainy day and this felt like a real winter treat. Once again, a very straightforward recipe and a tasty one!