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Food is Medicine for HIV: Improved health and hospitalizations in the Changing Health through Food Support (CHEFS-HIV) pragmatic randomized trial.

BACKGROUND: Policy support for "Food is Medicine"-medically tailored meals or groceries to improve health-is rapidly growing. No randomized trials have heretofore investigated the benefits of medically tailored food programs for people living with HIV (PLHIV).

METHODS: The CHEFS-HIV pragmatic randomized trial included PLHIV who were clients of Project Open Hand (POH), a San Francisco-based nonprofit food organization. The intervention arm (n = 93) received comprehensive medically tailored meals, groceries, and nutritional education. Control participants (n = 98) received less intensive (POH "standard of care") food services. Health, nutrition, and behavioral outcomes were assessed at baseline and 6 months later. Primary outcomes measured were viral non-suppression and health related quality of life. Mixed models estimated treatment effects as differences-in-differences between arms.

RESULTS: The intervention arm had lower odds of hospitalization (odds ratio [OR] = 0.11), food insecurity (OR = 0.23), depressive symptoms (OR = 0.32), antiretroviral therapy adherence <90% (OR = 0.18), and unprotected sex (OR = 0.18), and less fatty food consumption (β= -0.170 servings/day) over 6 months, compared to the control arm. There was no difference between study arms in viral non-suppression and health-related quality of life over 6 months.

CONCLUSIONS: A "Food-is-Medicine" intervention reduced hospitalizations and improved mental and physical health among PLHIV, despite no impact on viral suppression.


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