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Not having enough food linked to poor treatment outcomes in New York
Roger Pebody, 2015-06-23 07:10:00
People who don’t have enough food to eat are less likely to
have an undetectable viral load than other people living with HIV, according to
a longitudinal study from New York City, published in the July 1 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency
Syndromes. The findings underscore the relevance of interventions to reduce
poverty and help people living with HIV meet their basic needs.
In New York City, one in six people experience food
insecurity each year. Food insecurity is more common among ethnic minorities who
are also disproportionately affected by HIV. A lack of appropriate food could
make adherence to HIV treatment more difficult.
Researchers analysed data from individuals who received food
and nutrition services funded by the Ryan White Part A programme between 2011
and 2013. These services include communal meals, home-delivered meals, grocery
supplies and food vouchers.
The 2,118 people included in the analysis had all completed at
least two periodic assessments of their access to food as well as having viral load data
recorded in the six months after their last food assessment.
Individuals were considered to have ‘food insufficiency’ if
they reported sometimes or often not having enough money for food, not having
enough to eat, or recently going a whole day without eating.
As study participants were all receiving food-related
services, it’s not surprising that most reported problems: 61% had
food insufficiency at both assessments, 25% had food insufficiency at one of
the two assessments and 14% did not have food insufficiency.
There was a link between food insufficiency and poor
treatment outcomes. A detectable viral load (above 200 copies/ml) was reported
- 29% of those with food insufficiency at both assessments,
- 22% of those with food insufficiency at one assessment, and
- 11% of those who did not have food insufficiency.
Clearly, a number of other factors could impact this
association, including unemployment, low income, unstable housing, low levels
of education and drug use. After statistical adjustment for these and other
confounders, there was an independent association between detectable viral load
and food insufficiency: adjusted odds ratio 1.6.
There were also independent associations between detectable
viral load and unstable housing (adjusted odds ratio 1.5) and an income below
the poverty level (adjusted odds ratio 1.5).
Low CD4 cell counts weren’t significantly associated with
food insufficiency in the multivariate analysis.
The researchers say that their findings strengthen the
evidence for a causal relationship between food insufficiency and poor HIV
treatment outcomes. Future studies should examine the factors which might
explain this relationship – including the biological (weight loss, malnutrition)
and the behavioural (retention in care, adherence).
“Understanding the relationship between food insecurity and
clinical health outcomes among people living with HIV is critical in planning interventions for
this population, particularly among the urban poor and marginally housed
individuals who are at significant risk for food insecurity,” they write.