Delaying AIDS

March 8, 2011 - 0:0

Many people who are infected with HIV go on for years without developing AIDS. A few studies have found that people with HIV who take vitamins have a more slowly progressing disease, and a lot of people with HIV routinely take vitamins. But no one actually knows if you can influence the disease with vitamins.

In this study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences set out to test this idea with pregnant, HIV-positive women in Tanzania.
What the researchers wanted to know: Do vitamins help slow the progress of HIV?
What they did: For two years in the mid-1990s, researchers enrolled 1,078 pregnant women with HIV in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Women were randomly assigned to one of four treatments: vitamin A alone, a multivitamin that left out vitamin A, a multivitamin including vitamin A, and a placebo.
Neither the women nor the people treating them knew what vitamins they were on. All of them also received the usual folic acid and iron that women should have before giving birth. All children were given vitamin A once every six months, which is standard in Tanzania.
Most women did not have access to antiretroviral drugs against HIV. The women visited a study clinic every month until the study ended in August 2003. Of the 1,078 HIV-positive women, 299 progressed to AIDS or died of AIDS-related causes.
What they found: Women who took vitamin C, vitamin E, and the B vitamins had a slower disease progression. (Vitamin A didn't help much.) They were significantly less likely to develop AIDS or to die of AIDS-related causes and less likely to develop the mouth and intestinal problems of HIV than women who took placebo. Women on vitamins also had a significantly lower viral load.
What it means to you: Taking vitamins, for pennies a day, could delay the start of symptoms—the time U.S. guidelines recommend starting antiretroviral drugs—which would save a lot of money and discomfort.
Caveats: This study was relatively small and on a very specific population: young women in a developing country. It's hard to say how well it would apply to, say, middle-aged American men who eat a healthy diet.
Find out more: How the World Health Organization defines stages of HIV in developing countries:
Read the article: Fawzi, W.W. et al. ""A Randomized Trial of Multivitamin Supplements and HIV Disease Progression and Mortality."" New England Journal of Medicine. July 1, 2004, Vol. 351, No. 1, pp. 23–80.
(Source: Health.usnews)