A study done in Uganda shows that undergoing treatments for HIV reduces the feeling of fear of going hungry in patients. While the medication itself did not put food in the patient’s bellies, and it did not completely remove all concerns, it still begs the question: Why is this the case?

The study revealed a possible cause. Because the antiretroviral drugs improve the body’s efficiency, the patient does not feel the panic that usually sets in when the body is afraid it will not be receiving enough food. Better emotional health and ability to engage in work seems to have this effect on a patient’s overall demeanor.

Over 600 patients at two locations were a part of the study. Receiving treatment caused a high percentage of the patients interviewed to no longer feel as great a concern over difficulties acquiring sufficient food. While the treatment improved the health of the participants, it does not seem that this is what had an effect on the emotional well being of the patients. The most direct effect was a lessening of mental health issues, particularly depression. The end result was less of a concern about how to obtain food.

Was part of this reduction of stress due to the patients receiving food from the clinic as part of the study? No. There was no provision made to give food supplies to the patients. It is believed that the biggest change was due to the fact that increased health meant a greater ability for patients to work. Once they had a steady income—albeit a small one—the HIV patients were much more likely to not stress over finding nourishment.

What this study has shown is a direct correlation between the support given to HIV sufferers in poorer areas and their lessened concerns over going hungry. Getting proper medical attention leads to more productivity, and that puts food on the table, even if it isn’t really enough.