Malnutrition in Support Groups of People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA): A Case in Botswana

Maria S Nnyepi


Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine the risk of malnutrition and the prevalence of underweight (BMI < 18.5) in free living HIV + adults with membership in support groups for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
Design: Descriptive cross-sectionals study
Setting: Six support groups in Gaborone and neighboring locations.
Subjects: Consenting free living HIV + adults 20-50 years of age with membership in support groups PLWHA.
Outcome measures: Subject risk of malnutrition was established using a modified subjective global assessment screening tool. Subjects with a score ≤ 3 and score ≥ 4 out of a possible score of 8 were classified as low or high risk for malnutrition respectively.
Results: Of 145 adults screened for malnutrition, 47 were found to be at high risk for malnutrition. 28.5% of subjects were underweight (Body Mass Index < 18.5). In adults at high risk for malnutrition the prevalence of underweight as much higher (52.2%). Adults in the high risk group reported more unintentional weight loss, gastrointestinal symptoms, and other conditions commonly associated with high risk of malnutrition. Adults with membership in support groups also had low educational attainment, high unemployment rates, and 47% needed food assistance.
Conclusions Underweight is a common nutrition problem in free living HIV + adults in support groups of PLWHA. Nutrition screening can help identify adults at high risk and facilitate timely interventions.


Malnutrition, Underweight, HIV/AIDS, support groups

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S Afr J Clin Nutr: ISSN (Print): 1607-0658, ISSN (Web): 2221-1268

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