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Regional Consultation on Nutrition and HIV in South East Asia

A regional consultation on nutrition and HIV in South East Asia was held in Bangkok, 8-11 October 2007. Represenatives of countries from the region, together with scientists, researchers, programmers, decision makers, United Nations (UN) agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGO)s, civil society groups, caregivers, people living with HIV/AIDS groups, donors and bilaterals, gathered to review evidence, operational challenges and lessons. Recommendations for action were released in a participants' statement, summarised here.

Nearly 4 million living with HIV/AIDS live in South-East Asia, a region where 79% of the world's malnourished children reside and where several countries report over 40% stunting. With its large and rapidly growing populations, widespread malnutrition and burden of infectious and chronic disease, the region is particularly vulnerable to the HIV epidemic.

Nutrition must be incorporated into all aspects of HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes as a high priority - the challenge is to integrate nutrition into the continuum of care. 'Nutrition care and support' in this context should be defined broadly to include not only the provision of food and livelihood security, but also clinical care guidelines to include nutrition, counselling, capacity building to support integration of nutrition into care, and operational research.

Food and nutrition support is a critical component of a comprehensive response to HIV. Benefits include reduced susceptibility to infections, improved medication compliance and quality of life, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and improved overall HIV-free survival of exposed infants through appropriate infant feeding practices.

Participants called for stronger commitment from policy makers and donors to integrate nutrition and HIV/AIDS into existing policies and make adequate resources available. A call for immediate actions included:

A report on the meeting, along with technical background papers, the participants' statement and related links are at: http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/hiv_regional_consultation_bangkok/en/index.html

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Regional Consultation on Nutrition and HIV in South East Asia. Field Exchange 33, June 2008. p17. www.ennonline.net/fex/33/asia

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