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Fish, another weapon in the battle against HIV/AIDS

Raising fish to feed the orphans

Fishing community members, Zambia. Photo by Stevie Mann, 2007.

WorldFish and partners in Zambia are studying the best approach to countering HIV/AIDS with improved nutrition. Evidence is emerging that good nutrition helps prevent or slow the onset of AIDS-related illness for people living with HIV, partly by improving the efficacy of antiretroviral drugs. Children with HIV are especially responsive to nutritional enhancement. In subequatorial Africa, HIV infection leads to AIDS more quickly than in other regions because of poverty and malnutrition. As fish promises to provide affordable animal protein and micronutrients to people living with HIV, WorldFish and its partners are comparing methods of delivery, supported with funding from the Swedish International Development Agency and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Dried fish powder keeps well and is easily transported. Preliminary studies in Lusaka that compared HIV patients that consumed fish with those who did not found that adding 2.5 kilograms of dried fish powder per month to the diet helped nutritional status and wound healing. The cost of this nutritional supplement is less than US$60 per person per year and can be lower using locally caught fish such as kapenta (Limnothrissa miodon) or farmed fish. The studies found that fish powder should be added in combination with additional calories to avoid weight loss. The clinical trials in Lusaka analyze the effects of fish and fish powder on the nutritional status and response to antiretroviral therapy of patients in clinics and treated at home and have found preliminary but strong indications that fish powder sustainably improves conditions for people living with HIV.

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