Rural women living with AIDS (WLA) in India continue to face profound challenges in accessing and following treatment regimens, caring for family members, and maintaining positive mental health. Furthermore, they are generally underweight and malnourished, with adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) at levels lower than 50%. While the Indian Government's National Rural Health Mission utilizes a successful model to address the health needs of the rural population by training village women as Ashas (Accredited Social Work Activists) to enhance health of pregnant women and their infants, the focus on rural WLA needs to be significantly strengthened. U.S. and Indian collaborators recently completed an R34 pilot study which has demonstrated successful improvement in ART adherence, CD4 levels, and physical and mental health among rural Indian WLA. In total, 34 rural intervention WLA were supported by grant-trained, HIV-focused Ashas who provided assistance to WLA in decreasing barriers to ART adherence and provided protein supplementation compared to equal numbers of usual care WLA who received minimal protein supplementation. While very successful, our Asha pilot study monitored only WLA, despite the fact that many rural children are also at risk for delayed physical growth and psychomotor development. More importantly, we were not able to separate the nutritional component from the care and support component of the Asha, did not incorporate nutritional biomarkers, and were limited by only a six-month follow-up. In light of the mandate to advance both the science of nutrition and sustainability in real settings, our experienced team proposes to build on and extend our successful pilot work to meet this need, by assessing the incremental advantages of nutritional support to Asha care and support alone, and the impact of these programs on an index child (oldest between 3-8 years). In addition, we will take advantage of rural India's excellent mobile phone coverage and computer technology for both wireless data collection and data transfer. The proposed longitudinal study will use a 2x2 factorial design, specifically, 1) Asha support alone for WLA , vs. 2) Asha support for WLA + nutrition (food-based) training, vs. 3) Asha support for WLA + food supplementation, vs. 4) Asha support for WLA + nutrition training + food supplementation, to test the effects of nutrition training and/or food supplementation on primary outcomes of anthropometric parameters and immune status (CD4 levels) of the WLA at 6-, 12- and 18-month follow-up;and secondarily on ART adherence, psychological health, nutritional adequacy and lipid status of the WLA over time. Based upon reviewers'comments, among index children, we streamlined our assessments to include anthropometric parameters and psychomotor development;and among those HIV positive, immune status.

Public Health Relevance

Rural women living with AIDS experience profound challenges in accessing and following treatment for AIDS, while caring for children and maintaining a positive mental health outcome;yet, there has been very little research conducted regarding their nutritional needs and that of their growing children, some of whom may also have HIV/AIDS. This proposed collaboration between U.S. and Indian researchers builds on our previous work with rural women living with AIDS and our successful Asha program;using a 2x2 factorial design, we plan to assess the effects of nutrition training and/or food supplements on primary outcomes for rural women living with AIDS in improving body composition and immune status (CD4 levels) as assessed at 6-, 12- and 18-month follow- up;and secondarily, adherence to ART, psychological health, nutritional adequacy and lipid profile over time. For the oldest child (aged 3-8), our grant will focus on improving their growth and development. This program, if found efficacious, could easily be scaled up and sustained by local governmental and non-governmental organizations in rural and urban settings across India and elsewhere.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Behavioral and Social Consequences of HIV/AIDS Study Section (BSCH)
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Pequegnat, Willo
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University of California Los Angeles
Schools of Nursing
Los Angeles
United States
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Nyamathi, Adeline; Ekstrand, Maria; Srivastava, Neha et al. (2016) ASHA-Life Intervention Perspectives Voiced by Rural Indian Women Living With AIDS. Health Care Women Int 37:412-25