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Exploring Current Nutritional Programming and Resources Available to People Living with HIV/AIDs in Canada: Food NOW Project

Background:

Established in 2020, FoodNOW (Food to eNhance Our Wellness) is a provincially funded, dietitian-led, community-based, multi-phased participatory action research initiative based in K’jipuktuk (Halifax), Miꞌkmaꞌki (Nova Scotia [NS]). Rooted in a desire to improve shared experience developing, implementing, and accessing nutrition and food programming for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in NS, FoodNOW was founded by Nova Scotia-based Dietitians and other service providers working with PLWHA, and PLWHA. Optimal nutrition is critical to wellness of PLWHA, as nutritional status plays a key role in maintaining immune function and preventing progression to AIDS. Poverty, marginalization, racism, violence, stigma, adequate nutrition, and HIV create a “perfect storm” that has been associated with negative impacts on PLWHA health. 

Design:

This four-phased project is an example of integrative knowledge translation (as per Canadian Institutes of Health Research), including a 1) Scoping Review, 2) Participatory Food Costing (PFC), 3) Qualitative interviews, and 4) Mixed-form questionnaire. The results will be used to inform future research and community-based interventions in NS and beyond.

Methods:

A Joanna Briggs Institute scoping review was conducted to map available information on nutrition and food programming for PLWHA in Canada. Stakeholders were consulted (including PLWHA) throughout phase 1 and on plans to apply findings to subsequent study phases (interview guide, questionnaire). PFC represents a standardized model and methods, at the forefront of provincial and national efforts to address food insecurity. It involves collecting, analyzing, and interpreting information on where and how a sample population obtains food, and its costs in comparison to Canada’s Nutritious Food Basket (food for individuals in various age and sex groups to meet minimum nutritional need). COVID-19 restrictions and associated risks to PLWHA informed a decision to adapt our methods to virtual delivery. This novel approach will be discussed. As part of FoodNOW’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, the researchers engaged in consultation with community groups (including BIPOC) throughout the project, and consultation is ongoing.

Results:

Phases 1 and 2 are complete, while 3 and 4 are active. Results, to date, suggest nutrition/food programming in Canada relies heavily on charitable food provision, the cost of food necessary to meet minimum nutrition needs exceed that of CNFB, and that programming for population groups with specific needs (e.g., Indigenous people, trans and non-binary people) is lacking. Semi-structured interviews and a mixed-form questionnaire have been developed to collect additional information from several stakeholders, including PLWHA, service providers, recent immigrants, and Indigenous people. 

Conclusions:

The study outlines current food programming available for PLWHA in Canada and highlights some of the barriers PLWHA may face in accessing adequate nutrition. The collected data will serve as necessary foundation in facilitating further research and action towards improving food programming for PLWHA in NS. Including voices who have been marginalized (PLWHA, Indigenous/BIPOC groups) in the FoodNOW project demonstrates the desire and effort to design food programming that reflects the wants and needs of PLWHA. Dissemination of results through both traditionally academic and non-academic routes will ensure all stakeholders can have access to this information.  

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