What is exactly is “Food Insecurity” and why is important for people with chronic disease like HIV? The defining characteristic of food insecurity is that during a given year, the food intake of an individual is reduced and their normal eating patterns are disrupted because they lack money for food.

South Florida may seem rich but nearly a million local residents are struggling to feed themselves. According to Feeding America’s Meal Gap study, approximately 949,910 people in Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe, and Palm Beach counties aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from.

That number ranks Florida the 5th-worst among all states, and Miami-Dade is the 11th worst county nationwide regarding food security. This is of particular importance for the HIV affected community because people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) also tend to come from communities that are economically disadvantaged.

According to a study performed by Robertson MJ, et al., the urban poor are disproportionately affected by HIV. An obvious barrier, according to Robertson, to HIV treatment and adherence among the urban poor is food insecurity. There is growing recognition in the research and medical communities that a lack of nutritious food may speed HIV disease progression and impede antiretroviral treatment efficacy.

Food insecurity has also been found to be associated with PLWHA postponing needed medications and care, and increased their emergency department use and hospitalization.

To further understand the impact of food insecurity on people with chronic diseases such as HIV; researchers found that nearly one in three U.S. adults with a chronic disease have problems paying for food, medicine, or both.

According to a recent article published in The Atlantic, nearly one in four PLWHA said they had skipped medication dosages because of cost. More than one in ten said they had problems paying for both food and medication.

Conversely, research released in January 2014 in the American Journal of Medicine, shows that access to nutritious food can be a form of preventive medicine. Preventative medicine is extremely important for PLWHA and other chronic diseases.

Clearly, PLWHA should not have to choose between food and medication. Poverell, offers nutritious food to the neediest PLWHA in order to address food insecurity in Broward County. But it is still not enough. A recent longitudinal study of PLWHA demonstrated that 42% of PLWHA who were receiving food assistance were still food insecure.

In order to address food insecurity, Poverello relies heavily on donations from readers like you. Without the continued financial support of the community, Poverello could not achieve its goal of providing much needed nutritious food to PLWHA in Broward County.

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