The academic meeting brought together more than fifty stakeholders from across India, including government agencies dealing with HIV/AIDS and nutrition, non-governmental organisations that implement nutritional interventions along with their HIV/AIDS programmes, research institutions, UN agencies and networks of people living with HIV.
Participants identified prominent challenges including a lack of India-specific guidelines on nutrition and HIV/AIDS (for specific communities and contexts), insufficient research-backed evidence on nutritional interventions in India, and lack of coordinated advocacy on this issue at all levels (from local to national).
There is also a need for the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) to harmonise its efforts to meet the nutritional needs of people living with HIV, particularly children, with the Integrated Child Development Services of the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
According to NACO estimates, 70,000 children below the age of 15 are living with HIV in India and 21,000 children are infected every year through parent-to-child transmission.
There are many initiatives addressing the nutritional needs of children infected and affected by HIV and their families in India. These include the CHAHA project, which is managed by the India HIV/AIDS Alliance in four states: Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Manipur.
The CHAHA project provides a comprehensive package of services to children infected and affected by HIV, including supplementary nutrition. It is supported by a grant from Round 6 of the Global Fund to Fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), of which the India HIV/AIDS Alliance is a civil society Principal Recipient.
Related initiatives include the Balasahayoga project, implemented by FHI, CARE and the Clinton Foundation in Andhra Pradesh. Through psychological care, safety net provision, nutritional assistance, education, health care and other services, Balasahayoga aims to improve the quality of life of children and families infected and affected by HIV.
The Tamil Nadu Family Care Continuum Programme (TNFCCP) was initiated by the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society with support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) in September 2005.
The TNTCCP had three key components: clinical services (in a hospital setting, providing medical examinations, CD4 counts, lab tests, psychological counseling and referrals to clinical services), nutrition (nutritional counseling, micronutrients and macronutrients) and home-based care (home visits, with a focus on nutritional counseling and adherence to nutritional supplements).
There was a strong agreement among all attending the meeting to unite to make the most of resources and enhance the impact of interventions for people living with HIV including children.
One participant recommended that regular follow-up, action-oriented meetings be held for sharing experiences and lessons learnt. These would bring together all partners working on nutritional interventions for children infected and affected by HIV and their families in India, to advance the research agenda and unite for advocacy at all levels.
By Bobby Ramakant, HDN Key Correspondent.
This article first appeared on healthdev.net.