A generous $1 million grant will fund a Meals on Wheels program, providing “medically-tailored” meals to over 2,500 Indiana residents who are living with HIV. Multiple findings suggest that a healthy diet dramatically affects the prognosis and overall outcome for both men and women living with HIV, which is why a healthy diet is so critical.
The Indiana State Department of Health and Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana are teaming up to launch the new statewide meal program to improve the health of people living with HIV who live in the state.
Ryan’s Meals for Life is a project from Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana. It was named after Ryan White, who — as you probably already know — became the face of AIDS during the 1980s. The organization explains on its website why living a long life begins with a healthy diet, before or after the advent of effective HIV medicine.
“The Food is Medicine Coalition started as a resource for people battling HIV & AIDS when medication was not effective and food was almost the only option,” the organization states. “This was in the 1980s. The correct food became a substantial partner to the new more effective medications of the 1990s to today. Since then, the Food is Medicine movement has expanded to serve over 200 chronic diseases with astounding results.” In the beginnings of the epidemic, simply keeping food down was a struggle for many people living with HIV, but now the focus is on maintaining a healthy body.
Ryan’s Meals for Life received $1 million in funding towards MOWCI from ISDH through a federal Ryan White Supplemental Award. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Part B covers grant funding for states and territories on the state level.
“This funding has allowed ISDH to be more innovative in its continued work to enhance the lives of those who are living with HIV,” HIV/STD/Hepatitis Division Director Dennis Stover told local news station WEHT. “This groundbreaking program is something we’ve not had in Indiana before.”
Clients will receive food assistance via 17 agencies at 23 locations across Indiana that provide services to people living with HIV. Food recipients get to choose whether they receive hot or cold meals. If a client lives outside the MOWCI delivery area, frozen meals will be prepared by Eskenazi Health and shipped directly to recipients’s homes. Organizers say that the program has about 150 clients signed up as of early June, and they continue to receive about 10 new clients per day. In addition, the organization’s care coordinators will work in tandem with each client’s physician or specialist to ensure that their diet aligns with their health care needs.
MOWCI will keep track of each client’s data, which will include HIV viral load/CD4 levels, weight and appetite.
Staying healthy, for people living with HIV, is a balancing act that requires both effective antiretroviral medication and a healthy diet. People living with HIV who eat a healthy diet are also more likely to adhere to their drug regimen.
Indiana’s new Meals on Wheels program for people living with HIV is one of the first programs of its kind in America. It’s a loving gesture that may raise the bar for other organizations that help people living with HIV.