Implications of Tanzanian Culture on Nutrition and their Effects in People Living with HIV/AIDS
Many Africans living with HIV/AIDS also suffer from malnutrition. Together, HIV and malnutrition greatly compromise the immune system of an individual, with each condition increasing the effects of the other. This field study examines Maasai in the Arusha region of Tanzania where approximately 5.6% of the population is infected with HIV/AIDS and 45% of children exhibit stunted growth, indicating chronic malnutrition within the population. Cultural factors including gender inequality, knowledge levels, and traditions associated with Maasai (the predominant tribe in the Arusha region) were analyzed in their contributions to malnutrition and HIV. The study was conducted over three months in Arusha through observation, interviews, knowledge surveys, and online databases. International data analyzed show a positive correlation between HIV mortality rates and malnutrition, with Tanzania being near the upper limits of both. Analysis of the traditional Maasai diet (solely consisting of milk and meat) indicates inadequate intake of carbohydrates and deficiencies in micronutrients vital for a strong immune system such as vitamin C and vitamin E. These results support the theory that combined cultural effects on diet are contributing to rapid deterioration of the immune system of HIV-positive Maasai.