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Supplements | Multivitamins as HIV Treatment

Multivitamins as HIV Treatment

By taking a multivitamin supplement, women infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can reduce their risk of developing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or of dying from AIDS-related illnesses, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2004;351:23–32).

Approximately 40 million people in the world are infected with HIV, a virus that lowers immune function, leaving people more susceptible to infections from other organisms. AIDS, the disease caused by HIV infection, is characterized by multiple severe infections that do not respond to usual treatments. The most effective known treatment is a combination of three antiviral medications. Because these medicines are expensive and cause dangerous side effects, however, they are only used in the later stages of AIDS. In places where HIV/AIDS is most prevalent, poverty makes access to these medicines extremely limited; as a result, fewer than 8% of people worldwide who should receive them currently do. Several studies have suggested that vitamin supplements might slow the progression of AIDS, delaying the need for antiviral therapy.

In the current study, 1,078 HIV-infected pregnant women with were randomly assigned to a treatment group that received either (1) vitamin A (5,000 IU per day) plus beta-carotene (30 mg per day), (2) a multivitamin (20 mg of thiamine, 20 mg of riboflavin, 100 mg of niacin, 25 mg of vitamin B6, 50 mcg of vitamin B12, 800 mcg of folic acid, 500 mg of vitamin C, and 30 IU of vitamin E per day), (3) vitamin A plus beta-carotene and the multivitamin in the listed amounts, or (4) a placebo. The women were monitored for an average of 71 months.

Women who received only the multivitamin were 59% less likely than women in the placebo group to progress to stage 4 (the most severe stage) or to die from AIDS during the first two years of the study, and had 29% less risk at the end of the study. Furthermore, women in the multivitamin group had significantly fewer AIDS symptoms and had higher levels of immune cells and fewer viral components in their blood than the placebo group. By contrast, women in the groups receiving vitamin A plus beta-carotene had a slightly increased risk (7%) of progressing to stage 4 or of dying from AIDS, had more symptoms of AIDS, and had lower immune cell levels compared with women who did not receive vitamin A plus beta-carotene.

These results provide further evidence that multivitamins benefit people with HIV infection, while a combination of vitamin A and beta-carotene might be harmful. The routine use of multivitamin supplements in HIV and early-stage AIDS treatment could slow disease progression. It might also delay the need for expensive medical treatments that have harmful side effects, preserving them for times when they are most necessary.

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

Copyright © 2004 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc. shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Healthnotes and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.

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Bastyr Center Disclaimer

The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.


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