Nutrition and access to nutritious foods are vital in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Undernutrition heightens vulnerability to disease transmission, and pairing antiretroviral drug therapies with adequate nutrition increases their effectiveness. Income inequality and food insecurity have also been found to increase the likelihood of exposure to HIV, driving up rates of infection in food insecure regions.
Launched in 2001 with the support of Irish Aid, USAID, Sweden, Norway, and the Rockefeller Foundation, the Regional Network on AIDS, Livelihoods, and Food Security (RENEWAL) operated in Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and South Africa through 2011, producing more than 150 publications during that time. A “network of networks,” RENEWAL linked food and nutrition organizations to AIDS and public health practitioners to form national networks. Through capacity strengthening, policy communications, and action research, the program highlighted the relationship among HIV, food security, and nutrition in Africa south of the Sahara in order to develop better policies on HIV prevention and on mitigating the impact of AIDS.
- An external evaluation concluded that RENEWAL “had a direct, positive influence on national capacity to address the critical gaps in understanding the links between HIV/AIDS, nutrition, and food security, in developing ways to respond to these challenges, and in national capacity to respond.”
- RENEWAL led the charge in bringing food and nutrition security into HIV and AIDS strategic plans, policies, and programs in several countries:
- Kenya: Food and nutrition concerns were included in the National AIDS Strategic Plan (KNASP) (2009/10 and 2012/13).
- Malawi: The agricultural sector HIV/AIDS policy/strategy (2003–2008), the Fisheries HIV/AIDS Strategy (2007–2011), and the Forestry HIV/AIDS Strategy (2007–2011) include references to the importance of food and nutrition.
- Mozambique: The Agricultural HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan (2006–2010), launched in 2006, received technical input from IFPRI.
- Uganda: The Ugandan AIDS Commission credited RENEWAL with introducing food and nutrition into the National Strategic Plan.
- South Africa: A sector strategy was developed on HIV and AIDS, led by the Ministry of Agriculture, and the government provided support to the RENEWAL land reform project.
- Tanzania: The agriculture sector strategy for HIV and AIDS and other chronic illnesses launched in 2006 and is still employed. RENEWAL also provided input on the National AIDS Control Council National HIV/AIDS Monitoring and Evaluation Framework.
- Zambia: RENEWAL provided technical input into the HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan (2006–2010) and the Zambia National Response to AIDS under the National AIDS Control Council.
- Zimbabwe: The RENEWAL team provided input to the Zimbabwe Agricultural Sector Strategy Plan on HIV and AIDS (2006–2010), initiated in 2006.
- RENEWAL researchers served on advisory committees and provided guidance to regional institutions such as the Southern African Development Community HIV/AIDS Unit, the Health Economics and AIDS Research Division of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Southern African AIDS Trust, and the Regional AIDS Initiative in Southern Africa.
- RENEWAL joined forces with international organizations such as the World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and UNICEF on action research in the region and provided significant input to the United Nations and Partners’ Alliance on Orphans and Vulnerable Children, Sustainable Livelihoods, and Social Protection to the UK Department for International Development–funded Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Program.
RENEWAL elevated food security and nutrition to the global stage by encouraging the inclusion of these concerns in the comprehensive HIV and AIDS responses of several international programs and organizations:
- Both the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s food and nutrition guidelines and UNAIDS policy briefs were influenced by RENEWAL’s work.
- RENEWAL was also directly involved in drafting a nutrition strategy for the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The strategy, “Report on Food and Nutrition for People Living with HIV/AIDS,” was produced in May 2006.
- The World Health Organization Assembly resolution WHA57.14, passed in 2005, identifies IFPRI as the source for their call to integrate “nutrition into a comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS.”
- Article 28 of the June 2006 UN Political Declaration on AIDS recognized food and nutrition as an important part of the global AIDS response, such that “all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food … as part of a comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS.”