Original Research

Investigating the interaction between human immunodeficiency virus, nutrition, and disability: A cross-sectional observational study

Hellen Myezwa, Jill Hanass-Hancock, Nikolas Pautz
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 10, No 1 | a1663 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v10i1.1663 | © 2018 Hellen Myezwa, Jill Hanass-Hancock, Nikolas Pautz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 October 2017 | Published: 20 June 2018

About the author(s)

Hellen Myezwa, Department of Physiotherapy, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Jill Hanass-Hancock, HIV-Prevention Research Unit, School of Health Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Nikolas Pautz, Department of Physiotherapy, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


Background: The average lifespan of people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has increased because of the enhanced access to anti-retroviral treatment. This increased longevity has led to a heightened focus on the comorbidities which may arise, allowing a clearer understanding of the contextual, personal, psychological and functional problems and their interrelations. Disability (functional limitations) and insufficient nutritional intake may interact cyclically with HIV and/or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS); however, no research to date has investigated this interaction.


Aims: The objective of this article was to report on the nutritional outcomes using albumin and body mass index outcomes as a subset of a larger study among adults living with HIV and/or AIDS.


Setting: This study was conducted at a large HIV clinic based in an urban area in Johannesburg, South Africa, which provides HIV treatment and support to over 6000 persons with HIV and TB. This clinic is part of a large public health regional hospital where extensive HIV research is undertaken.


Methods: This study was a cross-sectional observational study. The sample composed of 278 participants between 18 and 65 years of age and had been on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) for more than six months. Statistical analyses were performed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences.


Results: The results indicated that albumin level had significant inverse associations with functional limitations and physical health symptoms. Women were significantly more likely to have lower nutritional levels. A logistic regression analysis suggested that gender and physical health symptoms were the primary predictors of albumin levels.


Conclusion: The findings presented in this article can be applied to HIV and/or AIDS treatment programmes, such as HAART. It re-emphasises the importance of providing individuals on anti-retroviral therapy with affordable and adequate nutrition, education on the importance of nutritional intake and the benefits of potentially adopting supplement programmes. As females seem to be more adversely affected by low nutritional levels, with the findings showing an increased likelihood of developing physical health symptoms, focus also needs to be given to cultural or social factors that impact nutritional intake in women.


HIV; albumin; disability; nutrition


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Crossref Citations

1. Pre-Digested Protein Enteral Nutritional Supplementation Enhances Recovery of CD4+ T Cells and Repair of Intestinal Barrier in HIV-Infected Immunological Non-Responders
Shi-Tao Geng, Jian-Bo Zhang, Yue-Xin Wang, Yu Xu, Danfeng Lu, Zunyue Zhang, Ju Gao, Kun-Hua Wang, Yi-Qun Kuang
Frontiers in Immunology  vol: 12  year: 2021  
doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.757935