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Almost Three Quarters of Adults in U.S. HIV Group Have Low Vitamin D

March 2011

Nearly three quarters of HIV-positive adults in a fourcity US study had low levels of vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones and good general health.1 Blacks and Hispanics had a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency than whites. Some risk factors for vitamin D deficiency -- like hypertension and lack of exercise -- are factors that HIV-positive people can change with their doctors' help.


Healthy vitamin D levels depend upon a good diet and enough exposure to sun, which aids formation of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D deficiency may become more common throughout the United States and other countries, as people spend more time indoors and use sunscreen outdoors.

Low vitamin D levels pose a threat to healthy bones and may have a role in hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. All these diseases may develop more often in people with HIV than in people without HIV. And the risk of these diseases grows as HIV-positive people live to older ages, thanks to antiretroviral therapy. Vitamin D also contributes to a healthy immune system, which is necessary to control HIV infection.

Recent smaller studies in the United States, the Netherlands, and Switzerland found high rates of vitamin D deficiency in people with HIV.2-4 SUN Study investigators planned this research to confirm that finding in a larger group of US people with HIV, to compare rates of low D levels in people with and without HIV, and to identify factors that may contribute to vitamin D deficiency in people with HIV.


  1. Dao CN, Patel P, Overton ET, et al. Low vitamin D among HIV-infected adults: prevalence of and risk factors for low vitamin D levels in a cohort of HIV-infected adults and comparison to prevalence among adults in the US general population. Clin Infect Dis. 2011;52:396-405.
  2. Rodriguez M, Daniels B, Gunawardene S, Robbins GK. High frequency of vitamin D deficiency in ambulatory HIV-positive patients. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2009;25:9-14.
  3. Mueller N, Fux C, Ledergerber B, et al. High prevalence of severe vitamin D deficiency in combined antiretroviral therapynaive and successfully treated Swiss HIV patients. AIDS. 2010;24:1127-1134.
  4. Van Den Bout-Van Den Beukel CJP, Fievez L, Michels M, et al. Vitamin D deficiency among HIV type 1-infected individuals in the Netherlands: effects of antiretroviral therapy. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2008;24:1375-1182.
  5. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary supplement fact sheet: vitamin D. January 13, 2011. Accessed February 18, 2011.
  6. Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium. Dietary reference intakes for vitamin D and calcium. Institute of Medicine. 2011. Accessed February 18, 2011.

This article was provided by The Center for AIDS Information & Advocacy. It is a part of the publication HIV Treatment ALERTS!. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

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