Background: Food insecurity is associated with poor mental health among people living with HIV (PLHIV). This qualitative study explored the mental health experiences of PLHIV participating in a medically appropriate food support program.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted post-intervention (n = 34). Interview topics included changes, or lack thereof, in mental health and reasons for changes. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and double-coded. Salient themes were identified using an inductive-deductive method.
Results: Positive changes in mental health self-reported by PLHIV included improved mood and reduced stress, worry, and anxiety. Participants attributed these changes to:
Increased access to sufficient and nutritious foods,
Increased social support,
Reduced financial hardship,
Increased sense of control and self-esteem, and
Reduced functional barriers to eating.
Conclusions: Medically appropriate food support may improve mental health for some PLHIV. Further work is needed to understand and prevent possible adverse consequences on mental health after programs end.