Multivitamins May Slow Progression of HIV for Patients in Earliest Phase of Disease, Study Says
July 1, 2004
HIV-positive women who take a multivitamin once daily are 30% less likely than those who do not take the supplements to progress to the latest stage of HIV, according to a study published in the July 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the Boston Globe reports (Smith, Boston Globe, 7/1). Researchers from Harvard University School of Public Health and Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences in Tanzania between 1995 and 2003 studied 1,078 pregnant HIV-positive women in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, who did not have access to antiretroviral treatment (McNeil, New York Times, 7/1). Researchers randomly assigned participants to receive a multivitamin, a multivitamin with vitamin A, vitamin A alone or a placebo (Nano, AP/Long Island Newsday, 6/30). The multivitamins contained about three times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin E and six to 10 times the allowance of vitamins C and B-complex, according to the Times (New York Times, 7/1). Participants in the study, which was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, took the vitamins during pregnancy and for the duration of the study, according to a NICHHD release. All of the participants received folic acid and an iron supplement during pregnancy, regardless of whether they received placebos or vitamins.
Measures, Changes in Method
Dr. Lynne Mofenson, head of NICHHD's pediatric and maternal AIDS branch, said, "The study is important for developing countries, especially for pregnant and postpartum women, who are a nutritionally vulnerable group" (Boston Globe, 7/1). Mofenson added that supplements "might buy time to allow people to go longer before they develop symptoms that require antiretroviral treatment" (Brown, Washington Post, 7/1). Fawzi said that the findings "clearly provide support for a recommendation of providing multivitamins as supportive care to those infected with HIV," adding, "The multivitamins would be useful in earlier stages of HIV disease, in order to delay the time until these antiretroviral drugs are necessary" (Boston Globe, 7/1). Although the multivitamins used in the research were made specifically for the study, they would be "quite easy to mass-produce," Fawzi said (New York Times, 7/1). He added, "It's a low-cost intervention that could result in major savings and be helpful to many individuals in terms of better quality of life" (AP/Long Island Newsday, 6/30). In an accompanying NEJM editorial, Drs. Barbara Marston and Kevin De Cock of the CDC in Kenya called for more research to support the findings, according to the AP/Newsday. Until then, doctors "would be justified in routinely prescribing [multivitamins as] nutritional support, since it may provide a benefit and does no harm" (AP/Long Island Newsday, 6/30).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.