Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 1999;60(3):857-861

See related article on weight loss in adults with HIV disease.

Even though you have HIV, you don't have to lose weight. Good nutrition and exercise can improve your health and slow down your HIV infection.

What problems could make it hard for me to eat a healthy diet?

You might have trouble eating if you have sores in your mouth, diarrhea, nausea or just a poor appetite. If you have trouble eating and exercising, talk to your doctor.

What are some good tips for eating right?

A few simple steps can help you make sure your food is healthy and safe:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before you eat so you won't get an infection from germs on your hands.

  • Wash fruits and vegetables before you eat them or cook them.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after you touch raw fish, chicken or meat so you won't get an infection from germs on your hands.

  • Be sure that meat, eggs and fish are well cooked before you eat them.

Here are some ways to put good nutrition into your diet:

  • Have high-calorie drinks like milkshakes. Adding powdered milk can increase the nutrition in other drinks.

  • Drink 8 to 10 glasses of filtered water each day.

  • Keep nutritious snacks on hand.

  • Eat high-calorie foods if you're losing weight.

  • Call your doctor if you lose 5 lb or more when you didn't want to.

  • Talk to your doctor about taking a multivitamin every day. Take your multivitamin with a meal so your stomach won't get upset.

What can I do if I'm having trouble eating?

  • If you don't have an appetite—Try to eat your favorite foods. Instead of eating three big meals each day, eat six to eight small meals. Drink high-calorie protein shakes with your meals or between meals.

  • If you have diarrhea—Don't eat fried foods and other high-fat foods like potato chips. Don't eat high-fiber foods. Instead, eat bland foods like bread, rice and applesauce. Ask your doctor about taking nutritional supplements, like Ensure.

  • If you have mouth sores—Avoid citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit. Avoid very hot or cold foods. Don't eat spicy foods. Try not to eat hard foods like chips and pretzels. Use a straw to drink liquids.

  • If you have nausea and vomiting—Avoid drinking any liquid with your meals. Eat six to eight small meals each day instead of three large meals. Eat foods with a mild flavor. Eat foods at a medium temperature, not hot or cold. Drink nutritional supplements and sports drinks. Sit and relax for 30 minutes after you eat.

How can I increase my strength?

An aerobic exercise like walking will help make you stronger. It's good to begin exercising slowly. Little by little, increase the amount of exercise. For example, you might start walking for 20 minutes three times a week. Then, after you get a little stronger, you can increase the walking time to 30 minutes four times a week. Talk with your doctor before you start.

Weight lifting is also a good way to increase your strength. The pictures below show you several basic exercises. Start by trying to do a weight lifting exercise 10 times. This is called a “repetition.” More than one repetition is called a “set.” Try to do two sets of 10 repetitions. Rest for 90 seconds between each set.

You don't need to have fancy exercise equipment to do weight lifting. You can use soup or juice cans, books and other objects you have in the house. Start by lifting a weight that's comfortable for you and doesn't cause too much strain.

In the first week, do one or two different weight lifting exercises for each body part once or twice in the week. Start with a small weight in each hand, like 10 to 15 ounces (a can of soup or a can of beans), depending on the exercise. Each week increase the number of exercises you do and the number of times you exercise. Rest for 1 to 2 days between exercise sessions. When you're feeling sick, either exercise less or stop for a while.

The rightsholder did not grant rights to reproduce this item in electronic media. For the missing item, see the original print version of this publication.
The rightsholder did not grant rights to reproduce this item in electronic media. For the missing item, see the original print version of this publication.
The rightsholder did not grant rights to reproduce this item in electronic media. For the missing item, see the original print version of this publication.
The rightsholder did not grant rights to reproduce this item in electronic media. For the missing item, see the original print version of this publication.

Continue Reading


More in AFP

Copyright © 1999 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See https://www.aafp.org/about/this-site/permissions.html for copyright questions and/or permission requests.