Objectives: To assess the acceptability of ready-to-use food (RUF)-based outpatient protocols in HIV-infected children and adolescents with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and moderate acute malnutrition (MAM).
Methods: Plumpy Nut and Plumpy Sup were supplied every 2 weeks and prescribed by weight to SAM and MAM children, respectively. Forty-three children, 24 MAM and 19 SAM, were enrolled. Organoleptic appreciation, feeding modalities, and perceptions surrounding RUF were recorded at week 2. Sachets were counted to measure adherence throughout the study.
Results: Median age was 12.2 years (interquartile range: 9.3-14.8), and 91% were on antiretroviral treatment. Overall, 80%, 76%, 68%, and 68% of children initially rated RUF color, taste, smell, and mouth feeling as good. However, feelings of disgust, refusal to eat, fragmentation of intake, self-stigma, and sharing within the household were commonly reported. Eighteen MAM and 7 SAM experienced weight recovery. Recovery duration was 54 days (31-90) in MAM versus 114 days (69-151) in SAM children ( P = .02). Their rate of RUF consumption compared to amount prescribed was approximately 50% from week 2 to week 10. Nine failed to gain weight or consume RUF and were discontinued for clinical management, and 9 dropped out due to distance to the clinic.
Conclusion: Initial RUF acceptability was satisfactory. More than half the children had successful weight recovery, although adherence to RUF prescription was suboptimal. However, further research is needed to propose therapeutic foods with improved palatability, alternative and simpler intervention design, and procedures for continuous and tailored psychosocial support in this vulnerable population.
Trial registration: NCT01771562 (Current Controlled Trials).
Keywords: Africa; HIV; acceptability; acute malnutrition; adolescents; ready-to-use therapeutic food.