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Open Access Open Badges Research article

The impact of food assistance on weight gain and disease progression among HIV-infected individuals accessing AIDS care and treatment services in Uganda

Rahul Rawat12*, Suneetha Kadiyala1 and Paul E McNamara3

Author Affiliations

1 Poverty, Health, and Nutrtition Division, International Food Policy Research Institute, 2033 K Street, Washington D.C. 20006, USA

2 Concern Worldwide, 52-55 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2, Ireland

3 Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics and Division of Nutritional Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 341 Mumford Hall, 1301 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, Illinois, 61801, USA

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:316  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-316

Published: 7 June 2010



The evidence evaluating the benefits of programmatic nutrition interventions to HIV-infected individuals in developing countries, where there is a large overlap between HIV prevalence and malnutrition, is limited. This study evaluates the impact of food assistance (FA) on change in weight and disease progression as measured by WHO staging.


We utilize program data from The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) in Uganda to compare outcomes among FA recipients to a control group, using propensity score matching (PSM) methods among 14,481 HIV-infected TASO clients.


FA resulted in a significant mean weight gain of 0.36 kg over one year period. This impact was conditional on anti-retroviral therapy (ART) receipt and disease stage at baseline. FA resulted in mean weight gain of 0.36 kg among individuals not receiving ART compared to their matched controls. HIV-infected individuals receiving FA with baseline WHO stage II and III had a significant weight gain (0.26 kg and 0.2 kg respectively) compared to their matched controls. Individuals with the most advanced disease at baseline (WHO stage IV) had the highest weight gain of 1.9 kg. The impact on disease progression was minimal. Individuals receiving FA were 2 percentage points less likely to progress by one or more WHO stage compared to their matched controls. There were no significant impacts on either outcome among individuals receiving ART.


Given the widespread overlap of HIV and malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa, FA programs have the potential to improve weight and delay disease progression, especially among HIV-infected individuals not yet on ART. Additional well designed prospective studies evaluating the impact of FA are urgently needed.