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Diet for HIV Positive People

author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
Diet for HIV Positive People
It's important to wash vegetables and fruits before eating them. Photo Credit kazoka30/iStock/Getty Images

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.

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.

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