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January 21 2003

MALNUTRITION RESPONSIBLE FOR HIV PROGRESSION

Good nutrition and adequate vitamin levels are enough to prevent the development of Aids in HIV-positive people, claims AIDS Dr Roberto Giraldo.

Addressing a conference of health ministers from the Southern African Development Community on Monday, Giraldo, a member of President Mbeki's Aids panel, received resounding applause.

'People should take the signal that one can manage Aids with proper nutrition'. He made numerous references to scientific research that had shown how the deficiency of certain vitamins in the system was associated with a decline in the CD-4 count.

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Quoting research from the Harvard School of Public Health, he said: "The higher rate of HIV progression and vertical transmission in developing countries coincides with similarly higher rates of malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, indicating that HIV infection may be modified by nutritional status."

Responding to the speech, United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) representative, Dr Narinus Gotink, told reporters that delegates had probably agreed with Giraldo more than they had expected to. He also complimented Giraldo on the number of scientific references he had quoted.

Biochemist Nceba Gqaleni, from the University of Natal, said he had found Giraldo's paper to have been well researched. "My understanding of his paper was that we should all have a good nutrition status. By doing that, we will be reducing the chances of progression to Aids. At the moment, we don't have a cure, so I feel people should therefore take the signal that one can manage Aids with proper nutrition," he said.

'It is correct that we should be looking into alternative remedies'. On Giraldo's presence at the conference, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said: "He is an immunologist, epidemiologist and nutritionist. These are the skills we are tapping into. It is correct that we should be looking into alternative remedies."

Giraldo maintained that nutrition could not change people's HIV status from positive to negative, but he said an optimal nutritional status, as well as adequate vitamin levels, were known to be - by themselves - enough to prevent the development of Aids in HIV-positive people.

A person living with HIV who made a presentation during the conference, Ernest Saila, said he agreed with Giraldo. Saila, who has been living with HIV for 13 years, said he had been using vitamin supplements for eight to nine years. During his years with the virus his wife has had an HIV-negative baby. "By taking Vitamin A, I can proudly say I have a healthy baby," he said.

For more information on AIDS/HIV see: robertogirardo.com
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Boyd Graves

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