Adults with HIV ‘growing overweight and obese’


Adults with HIV/Aids are steadily becoming overweight and obese, a new survey indicates. The survey also reveals that close to half the children who are HIV positive are stunted and wasted.

The exact cause of the weight gain among adults is, however, yet to be established with experts planning further research in nutrition and medication vis-a-vis acceptance of status among those living with HIV/Aids.

The survey was conducted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), Ministry of Health, National Aids and STI Control Programme and the World Food Programme.

It was done in 31 randomly selected clinics in Nairobi, Western, Nyanza, North Eastern, Central, Coast, North Rift, South Rift and South Eastern regions.

The findings were unveiled Tuesday at the launch of the National Nutrition and HIV report, which coincided with celebrations to mark National Nutrition Week from October 26 to 20.

The head of the Preventive and Promotive Health Department in the Ministry of Health, Dr Jackson Kioko, said there is an emerging risk of over-nutrition in adults living with HIV.

“The survey revealed high levels of malnutrition in children with HIV,” he said, adding the findings were expected to improve nutrition programmes for people living with HIV.


According to the report, the overall prevalence of overweight and obesity was found to be higher than that of underweight, especially among those who have been on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for long.

Over 20 per cent of adults surveyed were overweight or obese while at least 16 per cent were thin or wasted.

“Late antiretroviral treatment for females resulted in the highest prevalence of overweight and obesity,” it says.

Among children, the survey reported stunting and wasting for those aged between two and 14, especially boys, due to poor nutrition.

Results showed 44 per cent of children with HIV surveyed were stunted compared to 35 per cent in the general population while 19 per cent were underweight and nine per cent wasted.

Ms Zipporah Bukania-Apungu, a nutrition research officer at Kemri, said the survey was the first in the country on people with HIV.

“From the findings, close to half the children who are HIV positive are stunted,” she said. “In adults, what is worrying is the high number of overweight persons,” she said.

The officer said the survey was not detailed to find out what was causing the weight gain.

“For us to come up with a conclusive finding we need some further studies and follow up for a period of time,” she stated.

To assess food security, the survey considered the food consumption and diet diversity in households.