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To elucidate the factors influencing food intake and preferences for potential nutritional supplements to treat mild and moderate malnutrition among adult people living with HIV (PLHIV).
Qualitative research using in-depth interviews with a triangulation of participants and an iterative approach to data collection.
The study was conducted in a health clinic of rural Chilomoni, a southern town of Blantyre district, Malawi.
Male and female participants, aged 18–49 years (n 24), affected by HIV; health surveillance assistants of Chilomoni clinic (n 8).
Six themes emerged from the in-depth interviews: (i) PLHIV perceived having a poor-quality diet; (ii) health challenges determine the preferences of PLHIV for food; (iii) liquid–thick, soft textures and subtle natural colours and flavours are preferred; (iv) preferred organoleptic characteristics of nutritional supplements resemble those of local foods; (v) food insecurity may contribute to intra-household sharing of nutritional supplements; and (vi) health surveillance assistants and family members influence PLHIV’s dietary behaviours. No differences by sex were found. The emergent themes were corroborated by health surveillance assistants through participant triangulation.
In this setting, a thickened liquid supplement, slightly sweet and sour, may be well accepted. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods for data collection should follow to further develop the nutritional supplement and to fine tune the organoleptic characteristics of the product to the taste and requirements of PLHIV. Results of the present study provide a first approach to elucidate the factors influencing food intake and preferences for potential nutritional supplements among adult PLHIV.