For the last several months I have been working with several patients who have been diagnosed and have been living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV is a viral infection that damages the immune system and lowers the body’s ability to fight off other infections. Once the immune system is severely compromised the disease progresses to AIDS. None of our patients had progressed to AIDS. Since HIV affects the immune system, I prepared to support them with their nutritional needs. I focused most of my plans on immune supportive foods and activities. As I began to meet with the women I was really surprised at the other health issues I have had to consider and treat along with HIV. I was surprised at how many of my patients were coming in overweight or obese and had developed chronic issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Part of my surprise was because in the early stages of HIV many patients were actually underweight or wasting because of the effects of the disease. With the improvements in the medications there have been changes in patient compliance with lifestyle changes as well. The United States Navy recently conducted a study that reported HIV patients are becoming overweight at the same rate as the rest of the United States population. In the study that was conducted on over 650 participants, 63 percent of the participants meet the criteria for being overweight or obesity. The current national population percentage of overweight is 66 percent. The study goes on to discuss that weight control now has to be a standard part of the treatment regiment for overweight HIV patients. Doctors must also consider that high blood pressure and heart disease need to be considerations for health plans as well.
As I worked with my patients I was able to combine the information that foods and behaviors that support the immune system and support weight loss are not very different. Whole foods with an emphasis on lean meats and vegetables are the basis for both conditions. What has changed is stressing information about how obesity impacts the risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and cancer rates. The bodies of people living with HIV are not as well-equipped to manage these chronic illnesses because their immune system is compromised. Overall I have found these patients to be grateful for the interest and information and I hope they are on the road to losing weight and maintaining their immune system at the same time.
Dr. Dae is a Naturopathic Physician who practices in the Washington DC metro area treating the whole person using safe and effective combinations of traditional and natural methods to produce optimal health and well-being in the lives of her patients.
"Basic Information about HIV and AIDS | Topics | CDC HIV/AIDS." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/basic
Category. "HIV and Weight Gain - HIV and Obesity - Overweight and HIV Positive." HIV Symptoms - HIV - The Symptoms of HIV. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2011. http://aids.about.com/od/nutrition/a/obesity.htm