12.1  Nutrition and infection

Before learning in more detail about the relationship between nutrition and HIV it is important to understand the relationship between nutrition and infection in general. Poor nutrition increases the body’s vulnerability to infections, and infections in their turn make poor nutrition even worse. Inadequate dietary intake lowers immune system functioning and reduces the body’s ability to fight infections. Poor nutrition is therefore likely to increase the incidence, severity and length of infections. Symptoms that accompany infections such as loss of appetite, diarrhoea and fever lead to further reduced food intake, poor nutrient absorption, nutrient loss and altered metabolism. All of these contribute to weight loss and growth faltering, which in turn further weaken the immune system.

An adequate balanced diet, proper hygiene, food safety and nutritional management of symptoms are critical interventions to break the cycle of infection and malnutrition.

Learning Outcomes for Study Session 12

12.2  HIV and nutrition