Feature story

WFP Addresses Vital Role of Food and Nutrition in Global AIDS Response

11 August 2009

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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners explored the vital role of nutrition and food security for people living with HIV during a satellite session at ICAAP09. Credit: WFP/Jim Holmes

During a satellite session at the IX International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), held in Bali, Indonesia, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners explored the vital role of nutrition and food security for people living with HIV. Participants examined models of integrating this key area into HIV treatment, care and support, as well as implementation opportunities and challenges.

The widespread recognition of food and nutrition as a critical component of the global AIDS response has come after prolonged advocacy by WFP and others. Optimizing the nutritional status of people living with HIV is a scientifically recognized best practice. Without proper nutrition, people living with HIV become malnourished and treatment is less effective. WFP is placing greater emphasis on the integration of nutritional care in the health sector.

Since each country’s HIV epidemic is different, national AIDS responses need to reflect reality and address the context of unique risks and vulnerabilities. For WFP, the UNAIDS advocacy message, “Know your epidemic, know your response” means that national AIDS responses will include a nutrition and food component when appropriate.

In Asia, there are an estimated 5.0 million people living with HIV. Viral transmission focuses on vulnerable populations susceptible to infection such as sex workers or injecting drug users. In this context, WFP’s action on AIDS reflects the epidemic trend with activities such as the inclusion of mitigation and safety nets for these most at risk populations in national action plans and poverty reduction strategies.

Dr Martin W. Bloem, Head of WFP’s Nutrition and HIV/AIDS Policy, led the satellite session, entitled ‘Models for integrating nutrition and food security into HIV treatment, care and support in the Asia region: Opportunities and challenges’. He was joined by three additional speakers: Professor Emeritus Praphan Phanuphak, Director, Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre; Dr Angela Kelly, Team Leader, Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research; and Ms Kaniz Fatima, Project Officer and HIV Focal Point, WFP Bangladesh.

They shared their expertise and knowledge on the impact of nutrition and food security for people living with the virus; opportunities and challenges related to nutrition programme design and the development of HIV nutrition guidelines; and priorities for future strategies.