Nutrition Should Not Be Used As Substitute For Drugs In Treating HIV/AIDS

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Nutrition plays an important role in managing HIV/AIDS andtuberculosis, but there is no evidence that it is a viable substitutefor antiretroviral and other drugs as a primary treatment, according toa report released Wednesday by a South African scientific panel thatadvises the government on health policy, SAPA/iAfrica.com reports (SAPA/iAfrica.com, 8/22).

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The report, released by the Academy of Science of South Africa,in October 2005 began examining data about how nutrition influences thehuman immune system, specifically regarding HIV/AIDS and TB, Reuters reports. According to panel chair Barry Mendelow of Wits University and the National Health Laboratory Service,"no food, no component made from food and no food supplement has beenidentified in any credible study as an effective alternative toappropriate medication." According to Mendelow, although the panelfound that nutrition is a "valuable supportive measure," it concludedthat the primary treatment for HIV/AIDS and TB should beantiretrovirals and TB drugs (Reuters, 8/21). "Does thatmean nutritional treatment has no role? Of course not," Mendelow said,adding, "But we must understand the difference between primary andsupportive treatment." Researcher Jimmy Volmink also noted thatalthough some supplements such as amino acids could increase bodyweight, others, such as large doses of vitamin A, could be harmful topregnant women (SAPA/iAfrica.com, 8/22).

"[E]ating healthilycannot compensate for antiretroviral drugs when indicated by a doctor,"Este Vorster of North-West University said, adding, "For both HIV/AIDSand TB, we have to rely on the appropriate medical drugs" (Flanagan, Cape Times/IOL,8/22). The report called for nutritional studies specific to conditionsin South Africa, where much of the population experiences "hiddenhunger," a condition where a person appears to be well nourished butactually is lacking macronutrients, SAPA/iAfrica.com reports. Mostavailable studies were conducted among well-nourished people in NorthAmerica and Europe, according to SAPA/iAfrica.com (SAPA/iAfrica.com,8/22).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . TheKaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service ofThe Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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