Nutrition in the Context of HIV/AIDS
Nutrition for People Living with HIV/AIDS
Home-based Nutritional Care and Support for People Living with HIV/AIDS
Coping with complications of HIV/AIDS at a glance
Diarrhoea - Do not stop eating. Drink lots of fluids
- Drink plenty of fluids - at least eight cups per day - to replace lost water.
- Drink soups, fruit juice diluted with water or an oral rehydration solution (ORS).
- Eat soft, mashed, moist foods such as soft vegetables and fruit and porridge from cereals. Soft vegetables also include squash, pumpkins and carrots, and vegetable soup.
- Peel and cook vegetables and fruit so they can be better tolerated.
- If fat causes problems, reduce fat intake by using less cooking oil, cutting off visible fat or skin from meat and boiling food rather than frying it. However, fat is an important energy source and should not be omitted from a diet unless really necessary.
- Do not eat foods that make your diarrhoea worse such as spicy foods and unripe or acidic vegetables and fruit.
- Discuss the use of medicines to stop diarrhoea with a doctor or health worker before taking any medication. If the diarrhoea persists for more than three days, fever develops, blood appears in the stool or you become very weak, seek advice from a health worker.
- A person should drink as often as possible throughout the day and night and every time a stool is passed. An adult normally needs about 1.5 litres or eight cups of fluid per day. In severe cases of diarrhoea this may be increased to up to three litres a day.
Loss of appetite - The best way to regain appetite is to eat
- You may lose your appetite or find that the taste and texture of foods change; this often happens with illness.
- Try different foods until you find those that you like and try to have a varied diet.
- Eat smaller meals more often and whenever your appetite is good.
- Try recipes that help to restore appetite.
- Try to drink a lot of water, milk, yoghurt, soups, herbal teas or juices throughout the day. Drink mainly after, and in between meals - do not drink too much before or during meals.
- Avoid fizzy drinks, beer and foods such as cabbage, broccoli and beans that create gas in your stomach and can make you feel bloated.
- Try rinsing your mouth out before eating as this can make food taste fresher.
- Take light exercise such as walking outdoors and breathing plenty of fresh air to stimulate an appetite.
- Eat with your family or friends. If you have to stay in bed, ask them to join you at your bedside.
Nausea and vomiting
- Some medicines can help to relieve nausea. If the nausea does not go away, seek advice from a heath worker.
- Sit up when eating. Try not to lie down until one or two hours after eating.
- Drink plenty of fluids after meals.
- Try not to prepare food yourself. The smell of preparing or cooking food may worsen the feeling of nausea. Ask somebody else to prepare food or
- Eat food with little preparation.
Foods to eat and drink
- If you are vomiting, keep drinking small amounts of water, soups and spice teas. Eat soft foods and go back to solid foods when the vomiting stops.
- You may be able to relieve the feeling of nausea by drinking lemon juice in hot water or a herbal or ginger tea.
- Eat dry and salty foods.
Foods to avoid
- Fatty, greasy and very sweet foods can make nausea worse. Try to remove one food at a time from the diet to see if it makes a difference. If so, avoid that food. What affects one person may not affect others. You have to find out what suits you best.
Sore mouth or throat or when eating is painful
- Eat soft, mashed, smooth or moist foods such as avocados, squash, pumpkins, papaya, bananas, yoghurt, creamed vegetables, soups and minced food.
- Add liquids to foods or soften dry food by dipping in liquids.
- Drink cold drinks, soups, vegetable and fruit juices.
- Use a straw for drinking fluids.
- If your gums are painful and you cannot brush your teeth, rinse your mouth with bicarbonate of soda mixed with water.
- Chewing small pieces of green mango or green papaya may help to relieve pain and discomfort.
- Drink spice teas, fermented sour cabbage or yoghurt.
Foods and drinks to avoid
- Very spicy and salty foods such as chillies and curries.
- Acidic or very sour foods such as oranges, lemons, pineapple, vinegar and tomatoes.
- Food and drinks that are too hot or too cold. Keep at room temperature.
- Foods that need a lot of chewing such as raw vegetables, or are sticky and hard to swallow.
- If candida (oral thrush) is diagnosed, cut down on sweet foods such as sugar, honey and sweet fruit and drinks because sugar may make the condition worse.
- Drink plenty of water or other fluids and have plenty of rest.
- Try drinking herbal teas.
- If a cold lasts for more than a week, or if you have a high fever or a cough with a lot of mucus, blood or odorous discharge, see a health worker.
- Coughing is how the body cleans the lungs and throat by getting rid of mucus and germs. Therefore, do not take any medicines to stop the coughing but try to loosen the mucus.
- Breathe in hot vapours. Take a bowl or pot filled with very hot water and cover your head with a towel. Breathe in the vapours deeply for ten minutes, twice a day. You can try adding eucalyptus, mint or thyme leaves.
- Crush a lemon and mix it with honey. Take a large spoonful as necessary.
- Try herbal teas.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Try to bring down the fever by sponging your body with a wet cloth.
- Prepare herbal remedies such as neem tea.
- Aspirin or paracetamol can also be taken but make sure to read the instructions about safe doses first. Do not give aspirin to children or people with stomach or kidney problems.
Herbs and spices can improve digestion, stimulate appetite and preserve foods.
Herbal treatment and remedies Chart 1 | Chart 2 | Chart 3
A list of herbs is provided with the beneficial effects claimed by people living with HIV/AIDS. People can try these herbs and decide for themselves whether they are helpful. They may also know of other remedies used in their country that they want to add.
All herbs and spices should be used in moderate amounts. Exceeding these amounts may cause problems and have a toxic effect; moreover, the function of the herbs and spices will not be increased. They cannot replace healthy eating and should not be used in place of a healthy and balanced diet.
For additional information, check Recipes and food for a healthy diet
Living well with HIV/AIDSpdf document 90 pages - 863 kb
A manual on nutritional care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS
World Health Organization Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
14 September, 2019