What is the role of good nutrition in children with HIV infection?

Good nutrition plays an important role in helping to maintain the normal functioning of the immune system. Malnutrition (undernutrition) weakens the immune system, especially in HIV-infected children. Good weight gain on the Road-to-Health Card is the best indicator that the child is well nourished. A careful nutritional history must be taken in children who fail to thrive or lose weight. If necessary, supplementary feeds should be given. It is also important to regularly de-worm children.

Vitamin A is important in maintaining a healthy immune system. To prevent vitamin A deficiency, children at risk of HIV infection should be given a multivitamin supplement 0.6 ml daily. This can be stopped if the child is found to be not infected with HIV. If multivitamin supplements are not available, give 50 000 iu of vitamin A orally once if under 6 months (best at 6 weeks). Then give 100 000 iu once at 6 months and 200 000 at 12 months and every 6 months thereafter to HIV-infected children.

Adequate nutrition is an important part of managing children with HIV infection.

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