Food elimination, food substitution, and nutrient supplementation among ARV-exposed HIV-positive persons in southern Ghana

Laar, A. K., Lartey, M. Y., Ankomah, A., Okyerefo, M. P., Ampah, E. A., Letsa, D. P., … & Kwara, A. (2018)



Optimal nutrition is a determinant of health in all persons. In persons living with HIV (PLHIV), nutrition is particularly important. Various factors, including dietary practices, play a role in guaranteeing nutritional health.


We investigated multiple non-prescription drugs use among HIV-positive persons receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) from four treatment centers in southern Ghana. This paper, however, focuses on nutrient supplement use, food elimination, and food substitution practices by the PLHIV.


Using quantitative and qualitative methods, we collected data from 540 HIV-positive persons at the health facility level. This paper focuses on only the quantitative data. Individual study participants were selected using a systematic random sampling procedure. Participants were interviewed after informed consent. We used univariate analysis to generate descriptive tabulations for key variables. Multivariable logistic regression modeling identified predictors of three practices (nutrient supplementation, food elimination, and food substitution). P value less than 0.05 or 95% confidence intervals facilitated determination of statistical significance. All analyses were performed using IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, version 20.0.


The use of nutrient supplements was a popular practice; 72% of the PLHIV used various kinds. The primary motive for the practice was to boost appetite and to gain weight. A little over 20% of the participants reportedly eliminated certain foods and beverages, while 17% introduced new foods since their initial HIV diagnosis. All the three practices were largely driven by the quest for improved health status. We determined predictors of nutrient supplementation to be ART clinic location and having an ART adherence monitor. Having an ART adherence monitor was significantly associated with reduced odds of nutrient supplementation (AOR = 0.34; 95% CI 0.12–0.95). The only predictor for food elimination was education level (AOR = 0.29; 95% CI 0.30–0.92); predictors of food substitution were ART clinic location (AOR = 0.11; 95% CI 0.02–0.69) and anemia (defined as hemoglobin concentration less than 11.0 g/dl) (AOR = 0.21; 95% CI 0.12–0.85).


The practice of supplementation is popular among this group of PLHIV. Food elimination and substitution are practiced, albeit in moderation. The predictors identified may prove helpful in provider-client encounters as well as local HIV programming.

Keywords: Nutrient supplementation, Food elimination, Food substitution, HIV, ART, Ghana