Monthly Archives: February 2016

So what’s the deal on sugar if you’re HIV Positive??

While we all know that sugar in moderation is best, researchers say that starving HIV of sugar may put a stop to the virus. When the virus enters an activated immune cell, it takes energy from sugar and nutrients in order to replicate. Cut off the supply of sugar, the theory goes, and HIV can’t replicate in the cell.

Now researchers at Northwestern Medicine and Vanderbilt University say they’ve found a way to cut off the sugar pipeline to the immune cell, which in effect, would starve the virus.

“It’s essential to find new ways to block HIV growth, because the virus is constantly mutating,” says Harry Taylor, a scientist at Northwestern Medicine’s HIV Translational Research Center. “A drug targeting HIV that works today may be less effective a few years down the road, because HIV can mutate itself to evade the drug.”

This new approach has several benefits, including applications to cancer treatment (another disease with a powerful sweet tooth) and reduction in organ damage in HIV-positive patients. HIV causes an abnormal proliferation of immune cells, which can cause inflammation and damage to organs over time, even in patients who are on antiretroviral treatment.

“This discovery opens news avenues for further research to solve todays persisting problems in treating HIV infection: avoiding virus resistance to medicines, decreasing the inflammation that leads to premature aging, and maybe even one day being able to cure HIV infection,” says Richard D’Aquila, director of Northwestern’s HIV Translational Research Center.

Now, we’re not advocating reducing your sugar intake to zero.  Our bodies need sugar to survive and the information above relates to clinical procedures  in the lab.  There’s lots of scaremongering in the news lately about the need to reduce sugar, the war on sugar and many people are coming out to inform us all how bad it is!

As a nation, we’re being told we need to seriously reduce our sugar intake and recent reports have destroyed the notion that it’s OK to indulge a sweet tooth, even modestly.

The World Health Organisation recommends reducing sugar to below 5 per cent of total energy intake.  The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition also agree with this assessment.  Our own NHS is suggesting the maximum daily amount of sugar for an adult is the equilivent of 7 cubes.  Check out their site here:

In all cases, “sugar” here means added sugar. This is the type added to processed food and present in honey, syrups and juices, rather than lactose (the sugar in milk) and the sugars in whole fruits and vegetables.

Limited to 3 per cent of total energy, sugar intake equates to just 15g a day, or fewer than four level teaspoons. This means no more sweet treats (a slice of Battenburg contains 24g), and restricts the eating of even nutritious foods such as yogurt (a pot of the strawberry variety typically contains 14g of free sugars).

But is this recommendation actually desirable or practical?

“The claim that sugar should contribute only 3 per cent of energy is not based on good quality scientific evidence,” says registered nutritionist Sigrid Gibson.

Behind the Headlines, the section of the NHS Choices website that evaluates health news stories, agrees, writing that the BMC Public Health study has “many potential limitations, thereby reducing its reliability”.

“For tooth decay, between-meal snacking is the problem,” says Gibson.

Despite the clamour to cut sugar to help solve the obesity crisis, the evidence isn’t clear-cut here either. In fact, in many countries there is a “sugar-fat seesaw”, with those reducing their sugar intake eating more fat, which has more than twice the calories of sugar.

“Children and teenagers are eating too much sugar, with the average 11- to 18-year-old getting 15.5 per cent of their energy from sugar,” says registered dietitian Penny Hunking. “But you can still be healthy if you eat a variety of foods, and your free or added sugar intake is up to around 50g a day.”

A 50g limit allows for normal family meals, including a bowl of bran flakes, a small (150ml) glass of orange juice, pot of fruit-flavoured yogurt and a digestive biscuit every day.

“Scare-mongering messages about sugar perpetuate a myth that individual nutrients are good or bad, while we should be talking about dietary patterns as a whole,” says Gibson.

In short, yes it’s a good idea to control your sugar intake but not because of your HIV status or because there’s a push to inform people that sugar is bad. It’s important to understand sugar in context.  The best nutritional advice has always been to eat a variety of foods and that a varied diet can include sugars. While a diet high in sugars and sugar-containing foods may impact on calorie intake and weight, and therefore on diabetes and heart disease, sugar-containing foods particularly those that contain other nutrients can be included in a balanced diet.

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Complacency on HIV prevention

sadiqkhanLondon Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan has warned against complacency on HIV – after statistics showed that a disproportionate amount of Londoners are living with HIV.

The Labour MP for Tooting obtained stats from health minister Jane Ellison, after submitting a Parliamentary question on the issue.  The data shows that the proportion of people living with HIV in London is now three times the average across England, in line with stats from Public Health England.

Story via

27777 Londoners were living with HIV in 2010, but the number has risen to 32537 by 2014. This accounts for 0.61% of the population – compared to 0.21% across England on average.

In 2014, London accounted for 45 per cent of all people diagnosed as HIV+ in England – with a breakdown showing 30 out of 32 London boroughs have above-average rates of HIV.

In a statement to PinkNews, Mr Khan said: “These statistics show a huge rise in the prevalence of HIV+ in London – and behind each of these statistics is a story of human suffering and sadness.  While treatment for HIV sufferers has improved rapidly over my lifetime, we can’t afford to be complacent about HIV prevention.”

“We need a renewed focus on the prevention of HIV to match the huge progress made in the 1980s and 1990s.  As Mayor, I’ll make HIV prevention a top priority within public health.”

does this affect Leicestershire & Rutland?

At a time when pressure is on to reduce funding to front-line services, HIV prevention is an easy target.  Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council and Rutland Council are currently reviewing their HIV prevention budget and are consulting with the public.  Let’s hope some lessons can be learned by Sadiq Khan’s stance on the pandemic.

What do you think about the cuts to HIV prevention? Let us know in the comments.

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Changes to HIV services. We need your input!


Leicester City Council has reviewed the services it commissions for people who are HIV positive and their carers.  The review has found that only a small amount of service delivery is about adult social care need and that the majority of the support delivered by organisations such as LASS relates to advice on housing, welfare benefits, and general support.

There is provision in the city for this type of support but this is not specific to those with HIV.  Therefore, Leicester Council are proposing to commission a new service that improves accessibility to information advice and guidance for HIV positive people and their carers.

The council would like your views about their proposals for a new offer for people who are HIV positive and their carers who live in Leicester City.  Many of our service users have completed a brief survey which will be sent to the council tomorrow (Tuesday, 16th February).  As an individual, as a service user reading our blog we invite you to comment on Leicester City Councils proposal for a new information, advice and guidance service for people with HIV.

Access the questionnaire here: 270116 HIV Services Provider Questionniare

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