World Food Programme (WFP) and the STI/HIV/AIDS National Programme of Bolivia did a study which revealed that 65% of the people receiving antiretroviral treatment are food insecure. People with HIV may experience lack of appetite, difficulties to ingest food, and a poor absorption of nutrients; ingesting an unbalanced diet that lacks nutrients, makes it all more difficult for the human body to fight against a virus. At the start of 2010, WFP began a project with the objective of supporting at least 650 people with HIV, by distributing a food basket which included soy (on a monthly basis).
United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) - ItalyLead applicant
The World Food Programme is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. In emergencies, WFP gets food to where it is needed, saving the lives of victims of war, civil conflict and natural disasters. After the cause of an emergency has passed, WFP uses food to help communities rebuild their shattered lives. WFP is part of the United Nations system and is voluntarily funded.
Network of people living with HIV in Bolivia - BoliviaInitiative partner
Political advocacy and lobbying for integral access of PLVs to health care and services
National Programme for STD/HIV/AIDS - BoliviaInitiative partner
Coordination of all activities related to control and treatment of STI/VIH/SIDA (prevention, monitoring and supervision)
World Food Programme assisted in the introduction of soy to the diets of people living with the HIV/AIDS virus in order to improve their intake of protein.
The typical Bolivian diet does not include soy; therefore, WFP established practical education sessions in order to communicate the multiple ways soy could be incorporated as a source of protein into their diets. The classes were not only instructive, but also facilitated the cohabitation of people with HIV/AIDS and their families, strengthening community ties and decreasing isolation. WFP noted that soy contributed to the improvement of a person’s nutritional state and was an easily accessible and affordable method of meeting daily requirements of protein.
Prior to the introduction of soy, those living with HIV/AIDS had a difficult time maintaining weight and nutrition levels as they did not have access to foods with high levels of protein. As a result, the incorporation of soy, as well as education on nutritional food consumption, led to an immediate increase in participants’ weight and response to medical treatments.
World Food Programme (WFP) and the STI/HIV/AIDS National Programme of Bolivia did a study which revealed that 65% of the people who are receiving antiretroviral treatment are food insecure. People with HIV may experience lack of appetite, difficulties to ingest food, and a poor absorption of nutrients; ingesting an unbalanced diet that lacks nutrients, makes it more difficult for the human body to fight against a virus. Experts in the field emphasized that in order for HIV medicine to take effect bodies require energy and good micronutrient intake. For individuals with low qualities of nutrient intake, their appetites are reduced, thus lowering their ability to absorb nutrients.
“I used to be very thin and the intiretroviral treatment made me very weak […] with the nutritional support and advice from the WFP, I have gained weight, thus making me feel stronger when taking medicine”- Dora, mother of four that participated in the programme.
At the start of 2010, WFP began a project which main objective was to support at least 650 people with HIV by distributing a food basket per month. It included rice, vegetable oil, soy grains and salt. The community learned through classes and cookbooks the most effective ways to incorporate soy into their diets. The critical results achieved derive from the changes in beneficiaries’ physical and emotional condition, which improved after consistent soy consumption.
The main beneficiaries included whole communities in rural areas of Bolivia for people living with the HIV/AIDS virus. WFP’s support with the nutrition project has helped individuals continue in the fight against HIV and helped combat depression in those who have lost hope. Soy proved to be a heavily nutrient and low cost method to support these regions. After a year, improvements were eminent, as most beneficiaries reported weight gain and better overall health. Moreover, soy consumption has also aided in beneficiaries’ commitment to treatments.
The project's main national counterpart is the Ministry of Health with its STI/HIV/AIDS National Programme. Since the beginning of the project, the civil society has been involved not only in the survey to define their food insecurity status and the number of participants, but also in food programming and distribution of food basket. Currently, social organizations still work with the nutritionists hired by WFP, promoting nutritional education activities, like meals preparation and workshops for PLV and their families. The main organizations of civil society are REDBOL and VIVO EN POSITIVO
WFP hired three nutritionists (two women and one man) to provide nutritional counselling in the cities of La Paz/El Alto, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. The team of nutritionists organized the nutrition training sessions for the project's beneficiaries.
Initial obstacles in the project stemmed from mainly the executional portion. Medical professionals from the Surveillance, Information and Reference Centres (CDVIR) were sceptical about the effectiveness of introducing soy to the diets of patients as a method of improving their response to medical treatments. Social stigmatism against HIV/AIDS patients created an obstacle as few professionals in nutrition were willing to work directly with persons living with the virus. To this day, very few nutrition specialists from the National Health System are willing to support and continue regular medical care for persons living with the virus. To negotiate this issue, WFP is implementing a cycle of training for professionals in nutrition, teaching them technical and humanitarian aspects, eradicating wrong practices and emphasizing on the good ones.
Additionally, when attempting to implement the project in the field, lack of kitchen utensils such as blenders and ovens (for a large majority of beneficiaries) was an obstacle when it came to elaborating on a wider variety of meals for consumption. Alternatively, they were taught to hand grind the soy grain in the event that the beneficiary did not have the machinery.
Locally grown produce will effectively reduce the community's carbon footprint as the food consumed by locals becomes increasingly from surrounding regions or homegrown.
Sustainability of this project is being currently possible, beyond the food basket, as members of the community are given the knowledge to effectively incorporate soy into their diet. Soy isn't an expensive product and can be purchased in any market. Soy producers of Santa Cruz even donated soy to the project. The model is easily transferrable to other communities that have low cost access to soy as a source of protein. For rural populations living with HIV/AIDS this low cost source of protein have shown to effectively improve quality of health and nutrition in participants, and thus is a sustainable method of providing positive nutritious sources of protein.
Every month WFP nutritionists at healthcare centres organize educational courses on nutrition and soy based cooking preparations. These groups, also, organize public events to show the benefits of soybeans and balanced nutrition and bring all the information related to specific care for PLV, side effects of medication and how they can control them with appropriate combination of quantity and quality of their meals.