A new competency and skills framework for dietitians working in HIV care

01 Dec 2023
by Alice Pugliese

Alice Pugliese introduces an updated competency framework from the BDA HIV Care Specialist Group during its 30th anniversary year.

On 1 December, we celebrate and commemorate World AIDS Day. This is a time to celebrate how far we have come in providing effective treatment for HIV, reflect on those lost to HIV/AIDS and remember the difficulties still faced by many living with the condition.

As part of its 30th anniversary celebrations this year, the BDA HIV Care Specialist Group launched an updated competency framework for all dietitians involved in the care of people living with HIV.

Dietitians are a key part of the multi-disciplinary team caring for people living with HIV. Since the advent of effective anti-retroviral treatment for HIV, the role of the dietitian has changed from one primarily focused on nutritional support of acutely unwell patients, to one supporting healthy lifestyle choices and therapeutic dietary interventions to help facilitate long and healthy lives.

The skill set and competency of dietitians working in HIV care has had to change accordingly, with dietary intervention required in a range of conditions and co-morbidities from malnutrition and cancer through to obesity and diabetes. The HIV client group is a diverse and challenging one, encompassing many who do not always engage well with health services and those who are economically and socially on the margins.

The new competency framework is closely aligned with the BDA framework for post-registration development (2021). It focuses on clinical practice for HIV dietitians encompassing HIV-specific knowledge, nutritional assessment and care planning.

The primary purpose of the framework is for the personal and professional development of dietitians. The document helps to identify learning needs and provides a tool to collect evidence of competency. Many dietitians working in HIV may be the only specialists in their location. This can make clinical supervision difficult, especially for those new to the area of work.

The framework provides a structure for supervision outlining essential knowledge and skills and the scope of practice of the HIV dietitian.

A secondary purpose of the competencies is for those commissioning dietetic services in HIV care. It showcases the broad role of the HIV dietitian and what they can bring to the multidisciplinary team.

The competency framework is accessible to all dietitians here. Dietitians will see people with HIV in other speciality areas and therefore non-specialists may also find this document useful.

The HIV Care Specialist Group is a small and friendly group keen to support all dietitians working in HIV care – even if this is only a small part of your role. We hold regular online and in-person study days and monthly Zoom Q&A sessions.

Please contact us if you would like help on how to use the competency framework or to find out more about the group. You can also join the group here.

I would like to thank my co-author Maria Halley and BDA HIV Care Specialist Group committee for their support in the creation of this resource.

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