Imagine you are living with HIV and you are hungry; perhaps you don’t have a place to live, or there is no place to prepare food where you live – this is the reality for many of the clients at the Dr. Peter Centre and it is why our food and nutrition service is such an important part of our clients’ HIV treatment and overall health care.
At the Dr. Peter Centre, our food and nutrition service ensures that Metro Vancouver’s most vulnerable citizens receive healthy, wholesome meals to help with taking HIV medication and other treatments so that they can better manage the illness and lead healthier lives.
HIV treatment is now globally accepted as a key HIV prevention tool. An HIV positive person on their prescribed medication can live a near normal lifespan, and is 96% less likely to transmit the disease.
A Sense of Community
People that eat together talk together, share their common struggles and help each other. Sharing a table seems like a simple thing, but our clinical team knows the positive impact of creating a shared sense of trust and community. For some, it can mean the motivation they need to fight the disease for another day.
The Value of Nutrition
The food and nutrition service team provides a complete and nutrient-dense menu that includes balanced portions of meat or alternatives, vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and dairy products. Our clients get the nutrition they need and all of the healthy calories they require to give them energy each day.
“Every meal can become a conversation about nutrition and overall health”, says Rani Wangsawidjaya, a clinical dietitian who is the Dr. Peter Centre’s Coordinator of Nutritional Services. Rani oversees nutritional assessment and counselling with clients, offering education and guidance on nutritional status and health.
“While it’s true that advances in medication mean that HIV can be a manageable disease for many people today”, says Rosalind Baltzer Turje, the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation’s Director of Clinical Programs, Research and Evaluation, “If you are also facing challenges with addiction, homelessness, poverty or mental illness, you still need help to get to that point where you can manage the illness.”
A nutritious meal for people living with HIV also makes a big difference to the health care system. A recent study in San Francisco shows that inadequate access to nutritious food is associated with increased hospitalizations and emergency room visits among people living with HIV.