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How food support improves mental health among people living with HIV: A qualitative study


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:

  1. Increased access to sufficient and nutritious foods,

  2. Increased social support,

  3. Reduced financial hardship,

  4. Increased sense of control and self-esteem, and

  5. 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.

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