Food Security Study

PAN is a partner on the Impact of Food Security on Health Outcomes in People Living with HIV/AIDS Across Canada project, a national study examining how access to safe and nutritious food influences the health of people living with HIV/AIDS. The project brings together stakeholders from AIDS service organizations, academics, and leaders in the field of service delivery, advocacy, HIV policy and knowledge transfer and exchange in three provinces: British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

What is Food Security?

According to the United Nations, food security can be defined as the condition which exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Conversely, food insecurity is defined as having uncertain or limited availability of nutritionally adequate or safe food or the inability to procure food in socially acceptable ways. People living with HIV/AIDS are more likely to experience food insecurity, which can in turn lead to poor health outcomes.

For more information, visit the Rome Declaration on World Food Security

For more information on healthy eating advice for people living with HIV/AIDS, visit EatSafe

Study Objectives

  • Assess the prevalence of general food insecurity among HIV positive individuals in Canada
  • Identify the prevalence of various subtypes of food insecurity (i.e., food insufficiency, poor food quality/diversity, and socially unacceptable methods of food acquisition) among HIV positive individuals
  • Examine the socio-demographic correlates of general food insecurity and sub-types of food insecurity among HIV positive individuals
  • Examine the clinical outcomes associated with general and sub-types of food insecurity among HIV positive individuals

Long Term Goals

  • Help government, community-based organizations and society at large recognize the relationship between food and health, in particular for people living with HIV
  • Spark new support programs and services for the community
  • Inform policies that limit the availability and access to appropriate food sources and nutrition for people living with HIV in Canada

Methods

The BC component of the project employs peer research assistants who will assist with participant recruitment and deliver interviews with approximately 800 HIV positive British Columbians. The interview questionnaire will be validated through focus groups hosted by community AIDS service organization.

Findings

Read some of the preliminary findings from BC. You can learn more by looking at the BC Food Security Summary Presentation and the Food Security One-Page Summary Handout.

Two posters from this HIV/AIDS and food security study were presented at CAHR, one that focused on the experiences of peer research associates in the study, and a second that outlined the association between food insecurity and food procurement methods.

Peer Research Associates’ Experience: This poster spoke to the challenges and key learnings regarding the role of peer research associates (PRAsFS poster 1) in this CBR study, which was the first national HIV CBR study to engage PRAs. The study had many successes including: building strong capacity in a team of PRAs and shifting the community’s perception of the value of research. One major challenge was with PRAs’ isolation given the large geographic area covered.

The team learned many things, including the importance of: engaging PRAs at the beginning of the research process and building a strong and ongoing communication structure between all team members. This study provided the PRAs opportunities to learn new skills interact with their peers in different ways, cross education and de-stigmatization as well as opened up new career opportunities. The lessons collectively learned have informed other CBR projects and the study results have been used to develop two new food programs in the province.

Association between Food Insecurity and Food Procurement Methods among People Living with HIV/AIDS in BC: Studies suggest that people living with HIV/AIDS in high-income settings suffer high levels of food insecurity. However, limited evidence exists regarding the dietary intake of this population and FS poster 2sub-components driving food insecurity (i.e. food quantity, quality, safety or procurement). This poster presents an examination of the prevalence and characteristics of food insecurity among HIV-positive people across BC, looking specifically at the association between food insecurity and food procurement methods.

Food insecurity amongst participants in this study appears to be defined by poor dietary diversity and food procurement methods. Notably, participants who reported using non-traditional means of food procurement (such as trading sex or drugs for food or procuring food from dumpsters) were over 10 times more likely to be food insecure. These findings suggest a need for tailored food security and social support interventions in this setting.