Acquired immune deficiency syndrome is found to occur in individuals due to the attack of HIV infection on the immune system of the human body. Thus, AIDS patients have very less immunity; thereby get affected by other diseases easily. Initially, a HIV infected individual does not exhibit any symptoms. Only when the infection progresses and reaches a particular stage, the symptoms are exhibited. The symptoms of this stage include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rashes
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Oral lesions
  • Muscular pain
  • Other infections

Later on the HIV infection progresses at an alarming rate and exhibits the following complication symptoms:

  • Severe weight loss
  • Severe infection of the gastro intestinal tract, central nervous system, skin
  • Severe Protein Energy malnutrition
  • Tuberculosis
  • Pneumonia
  • Cancer

Causes of malnutrition in AIDS patients:

HIV infection not only causes the above mentioned symptoms but also malnutrition due to reduced food intake, increased nutrient loss and altered metabolism. Let’s see each and every cause in brief.

HIV infected individuals develop a condition called anorexia, where they tend to reduce the quantity of food consumed. This may be due to various reasons such as fever, pain, infection, drug therapy, fatigue and psychological stress. Oral infections develop mouth ulcers and thereby reduce the taste sensation. Cancer associated with AIDS also brings about oral lesions.

The development of gastro-intestinal tract cancer leads to defective absorption of nutrients. Protein energy malnutrition leads to diarrhea, which in turn results in mal-absorption.

All of the above mentioned symptoms such as cancer, diarrhea, infections, fever, protein energy malnutrition, alters the metabolism by increasing the basal metabolic rate.

Nutritional care in AIDS patients:

Nutritional care given to AIDS patients could not be used as a curative measure, but when given during the initial stages of HIV infection, could prevent the alarming rate of progression of the disease. Since weight loss is one of the major symptoms in AIDS, proper guidance of the diet could definitely bring remarkable changes in weight gain and thus improve the overall quality of the patient’s life. This will ensure the drug therapy to become more effective and yield better results.

The nutritional therapy is recommended based on the complications that might arise in the later stages of AIDS infection. The main focus is to improve weight loss. Although a perfect recommendation of each nutrient is not yet determined, 100% of the daily recommended allowance should be given so as to bring improvements. Hence a diet rich in proteins and calories is essential in order to reverse the negative balance occurring due to the wasting of muscles in the body. Also, the diet should be rich in vitamins and minerals. In order to meet the above recommendation, a diet containing more of milk products, pulses, cereals, vegetables and fruits could prevent the massive progression of HIV infection.

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