“Positive Nutrition”, developed by the UFJF, in partnership with the UFF, contributes to improving the quality of life of patients through food
Thinking of offering free nutritional care to people living with the HIV virus, the professor at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF) Renato Moreira Nunes and the professor at the Federal University of Fluminense (UFF) Aline Silva Aguiar have created, in 2019, the Positive Nutrition project (@nutricaopositivabr). The initiative, carried out in partnership with the Municipal Department of Health of Juiz de Fora, develops activities with the patients of the Testing and Counseling Center of the Municipal Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases/AIDS (STD/AIDS).
According to Renato, an average of 300 new cases of people living with HIV are registered each year in Juiz de Fora and the region. With the absence of nutritionists in the ambulatory care of the municipality’s public health system, the patients are without assistance in relation to the diet which contributes to an improvement in the condition and greater compliance with the treatment. With this, Positive Nutrition has been designed to try to meet this demand and evaluate the patient’s anthropometric data, such as weight and height, to prescribe the specialized diet according to the needs of each person and, as a last resort, offer also physiotherapy services. .
Anti-inflammatory supplementation to strengthen the gut
More than 60% of people living with HIV show signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders, underlines Renato, also a researcher on the subject at the UFJF. Among the symptoms, the patient may have diarrhea, an increase in the number of allergies, fungal syndromes such as candidiasis and dermatitis on the skin. Nutrition will help strengthen the gut, removing inflammatory foods from the patient’s diet, such as soybean oil, processed seasonings, processed foods high in preservatives, and replacing them with anti-inflammatory foods , such as olive oil, turmeric, rosemary, fruits, vegetables. , among others.
The nutritionist explains that HIV-positive patients who take antiretroviral drugs remain with the inactive virus, but continue to promote an inflammatory process, called metainflammation. This low-grade, chronic inflammation eventually leads to other diseases, including chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and muscle pain. “Nutrition modulates this inflammation. We remove inflammatory foods and add anti-inflammatory foods or supplements so that this patient can have a healthier and more peaceful life,” says Renato.
Among the consequences of living with inflammation are weight gain and a tendency to progress towards anxiety or depression. In this way, the project offers nutritional recommendations to reduce weight gain without calorie restriction, only with anti-inflammatories from diet and supplementation, as well as significant improvements in depression. The activity contributes to the reduction of future complications in the life of the patient, resulting in a lower dropout rate from treatment and therefore with greater adherence to treatment, patients are undetectable and do not transmit the virus.
The duration of the treatment varies according to the needs of the patients, however, the objective is to carry out the whole process of care, orientation and nutritional education in four months. In cases where the patient has not been able to stabilize during this period, he continues treatment until he shows an improvement in his condition and is discharged. After completing the service, the patient can request services at any time when experiencing symptoms. “It is important to remember that today the patient who is living with HIV, when treated, has the capacity to live five years longer than those who are not living with HIV. Therefore, it is essential to have a balanced diet so that he can have a healthy old age and with more will to live,” explains Renato.
With the increase in food insecurity, noted by the project team, the way of prescribing the diet had to adapt to respond to all the realities. In the case of homeless patients, the project coordinators, in collaboration with a social worker, refer them to the services that offer free food in Juiz de Fora.
Currently, Nutrição Positiva has about 3,300 people registered, and in these three years it has served almost 300 people. The waiting list for service is approximately three months. In addition to Renato and Aline, the team is made up of seven students from the UFJF who accompany the consultations.
Taboos and recommendations
The group also produces educational material and compiles the data collected during the consultation, with the patient’s authorization, to raise awareness of the disease. According to the researcher, currently most of the patients are teenagers who start their sexual life without guidance, people over 40, mainly women, and the elderly. “The clinic helps to demystify the stigma and stereotypes that surround the disease, first by the presence of a nutritionist making the reception and then by the dissemination of activities, which help the population to understand that anyone can be prone to live with HIV. »
Renato reinforces the use of condoms during sex to prevent contagion and highlights, in cases where the person has a risky behavior or for those who have had sex without the use of condoms, the use PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) or PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis), under medical advice – remembering that these drugs do not prevent exposure to other sexually transmitted diseases.
“The idea of the project is to show the population that yes, it is possible to live with HIV, it’s normal, it’s not a big problem if you follow a treatment, but having a nutritional follow-up c is good for everyone. People will live normally, they will have a healthy life, they will also have a healthy sexual life and children who will not be born with HIV,” he says.
To access the services provided by the UFJF Positive Nutrition project, the patient must call or go to the Health Monitoring Center, located at Rua Antônio José Martins, 92, in Morro da Glória. The telephone number for the Municipal Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases/AIDS is (32) 3690-7576. The service takes place on Wednesdays, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and on Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.