Workshop on Nutritional therapy for HIV held in Israel for Dietitians
  • Country – Israel
    In Israel there are approximately 6,000 individuals infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Thanks to the advancement in the treatment and medications for HIV, there has been a change in the dietitian’s role and involvement in the treatment of HIV infected individuals. While, in the past, dietitians were called to treat acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients suffering from severe malnutrition, today they are needed to help prevent and treat the metabolic risk factors (e.g., dyslipidemia, insulin resistance) prevalent under the medical treatment of Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART). Since the dietitian has become a meaningful member of the multi-disciplinary team in HIV clinics, the Israeli Dietetic Association, together with the support of Janssen, conducted a professional workshop for its members about HIV.
    The workshop included three sessions planned to give an insight on psychological, medical, and nutritional aspects of the disease. The workshop began with the personal story of an HIV infected individual. He described how he got infected with HIV, the dilemmas of confining his family and friends, the death of close friends with HIV, and more.

    The second part of the workshop was given by the internal physician and infectious disease specialist Dr. Itsik Levy, the Head of the AIDS clinic in the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. Dr. Levy explained the important lab tests (e.g., CD4, viral load) for the clinical assessment of the patient, and its relevance for the dietitian’s treatment and approach. Furthermore, he gave a review of the medical treatment for HIV and an explanation regarding the side effects of the modern medications for HIV increasing the patient’s risk for cardiovascular disease. Dr. Levi answered questions that helped fighting fears and ignorance such as: when is HIV contagious? When is the fetus infected? Can a HIV mother breast feed her baby? Etc.    
    The last part of the workshop was conducted by two dietitians: Dror Ben-Noah and Idit Ezov that gave a literature review of the nutritional treatment for the metabolic risk factors among HIV infected individuals, and discussed some case studies from the HIV clinic in which they work.

    An attitude and knowledge questionnaire was given at the beginning and the end of the workshop, suggesting a significant improvement in both aspects. Dietitians that participated in the workshop are now in the Israeli Aids Task Force internet site and among physicians in HIV medical centers, and HIV individuals can look-up a dietitian to consult without fear of being judged or stigmatized. 
    Dr. Osnat Stone
    Israeli Dietetic Association