Public Health Nutrition

Special groups

Food access and diet quality independently predict nutritional status among people living with HIV in Uganda

Suneetha Kadiyalaa1 c1 and Rahul Rawata1

a1 Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division, International Food Policy Research Institute, 2033 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006-1002, USA


Objective Although undernutrition is recognized as a risk factor for mortality among people living with HIV (PLWHIV), even among those initiating antiretroviral therapy, few studies have explored the underlying determinants of undernutrition. The objectives of the present study were to: (i) examine the independent association between household food security, individual diet quality and nutritional status; and (ii) determine if any association between food security and nutritional status is mediated through diet quality.

Design Cross-sectional baseline survey.

Setting Gulu and Soroti districts, Uganda.

Subjects Nine hundred and two PLWHIV recruited into a study evaluating the impact of a food assistance programme supported by the World Food Programme.

Results Food security and diet quality were measured using the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) and the Individual Dietary Diversity Score (IDDS), respectively. Multivariate regression results demonstrated that HFIAS and IDDS independently predict BMI (P < 0·01) and mid upper-arm circumference (P < 0·05). The adjusted odds ratio of being underweight (BMI < 18·5 kg/m2) among individuals living in severely food-insecure households was 1·92 (P < 0·0 0 1); individuals consuming a highly diverse diet had an adjusted odds ratio of being underweight of 0·56 (P < 0·05) compared with those consuming a diet of low diversity. Similar results were observed when mid upper-arm circumference and wasting were modelled as outcomes. Using path analysis, we observed that the indirect effect of food insecurity on BMI mediated through dietary diversity is negligible, and mostly a result of the direct effect of food insecurity on BMI.

Conclusions Our results provide an empirical basis for focused efforts on improving food access and diet quality among PLWHIV. Addressing the broader structural determinants of food security of people infected and affected by HIV is crucial.

(Received December 23 2010)

(Accepted January 13 2012)

(Online publication February 21 2012)


  • Food security;
  • Dietary diversity;
  • Nutrition status;
  • HIV;
  • Uganda


c1 Corresponding author: Email