Julie began her presentation with a slide that outlined food security measures as quantifying the availability of food; the ability to access available food; the ability to utilise available food, and; the stability of accessible and available food sources.
In Australia, 1 in 6 people report having experienced food insecurity at least once in the last 12 months (Food Bank, 2016), which aligns with other data pertaining to food insecurity. Thus far, the prevalence of food insecurity amongst people living with HIV is unknown.
The rationale for the study is underpinned by literature that links food insecurity to adherence issues. Also, the HIV Futures 6 study showed that 42% of people living with HIV received financial support through government means and that 31% lived below the poverty line.
Julie’s study utilised data from participants who utilised service across 6 sites in Sydney. The goal was to have 200 participants of varying age and ethnic backgrounds and with varying CD4 counts and viral loads. Administered through a phone survey, the study involved asking participants questions that were rated using the USDA six item subset tool. 162 participants were surveyed (92% male and 8% female) which ultimately matched the gender balance of the HIV Futures study. Of those surveyed, it was found that 47% were food insecure.
All Indigenous respondents surveyed were found to be food insecure. Key factors for food insecurity included being unemployed or living on a pension; inner-city living; a low CD4 count, and; a lower self-perception of health. Employment and education beyond high-school level led to better food security for those surveyed.
Julie emphasised that an awareness of food insecurity for people living with HIV may be lacking in the sector and that this is an issue that needs further investigation.