On 28 November 2007, in Rome, in the central headquarters of Coldiretti, the DREAM Programme and the World Food Programme of the United Nations (WFP) organized a seminar entitled Hunger and Health: Political decisions, innovations and solutions.
Throughout the seminar, two works were presented: the World Hunger Series 2007 report of WFP and a case study undertaken by DREAM.
The World Hunger Series 2007 of WFP tackles the multiple links existing between hunger and poor health conditions.
The case study, An integrated public health programme to fight HIV/AIDS and malnutrition in limited-resource settings, starts out from the experience of DREAM in Mozambique and demonstrates the strength of a combined strategy that fights AIDS as well as malnutrition.
Both studies underline the reality that people infected by AIDS have specific nutritional needs. According to WHO, an infected adult has energy requirements that are 20 to 30 per cent higher, while the energy requirements of children with HIV are actually 50 to 100 per cent higher.
The speakers invited to the seminar talked about the importance of launching a positive cycle to counter the parallel contrast of AIDS and malnutrition (the final A and M of the DREAM acronym are no coincidence).
The solutions implemented by the DREAM programme in many sub-Saharan African countries (food support, nutritional education, regular checks of the body mass index of patients as one of the most significant prognostic factors of their clinical evolution, and so on) were proposed as a model that can be replicated on the large scale, and this in view of even more noteworthy successes.
“Food is an essential component of our treatment,” said Leonardo Palombi, Scientific Director of DREAM. Stefano Vella, Director of the Department of Pharmacy at the Higher Institute of Health, and Member of the Scientific Committee of the Global Fund of the Struggle against AIDS, emphasized the same points.
“People living with AIDS often speak of food as their biggest and most important need,” said Elizabeth Mataka, United Nations Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa. She deplored the fact that “interventions related to nutrition of HIV treatment programmes are often neglected in international debates about anti-AIDS policies, remaining seriously under-funded.” And yet, “like any medicine, antiretroviral drugs are much more effective if people taking them receive adequate nutrition. Food support can play an important role in assuring that those who do not have food draw greater therapeutic advantages from treatment.”
“It is irresponsible to ignore the issue of hunger and malnutrition, especially in the struggle against AIDS,” added the WFP vice-director, Shiela Sisulu. She said: “Must we see the benefits of medical treatment nullified just because people are too malnourished to metabolize and to draw advantages from the medicines which they desperately need?”
“What we need is willingness and action to free mankind from the scourge of hunger,” concluded John Powell, executive vice-director of WFP. “Enormous suffering exists, especially among those who are affected by AIDS and by malnutrition, and we need to do more. We must mobilize the collective will from every point of view: economic, political, and above all, moral.”