Multivitamins During Pregnancy and After Birth Delay Progression of HIV In Women

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Multivitamin supplements containing high doses of the vitamin B complex, as well as vitamins C and E, given to HIV-infected women during pregnancy and for more than 5 years after they gave birth reduced the symptoms of AIDS, according to a study of Tanzanian women supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the John E. Fogarty International Center (FIC) for Advanced Study in the Health Sciences, both of the National Institutes of Health. The supplements also bolstered counts of disease-fighting immune cells, and modestly lowered HIV levels in the blood.

The study appears in the July 1 New England Journal of Medicine.

"This study provides evidence that multivitamin supplements may allow women in developing countries who are infected with the AIDS virus to go for longer than they otherwise would before needing anti-AIDS drugs," said NICHD Director Duane Alexander, M.D.

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"By keeping women healthier longer, multivitamin therapy can help to assure that anti-HIV drugs can be directed to those who need them most," said FIC Acting Director Sharon Hrynkow, Ph.D.

The first author of the study was Wafaie Fawzi, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Other authors of the study also were from the Harvard School of Public Health as well as from the Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The authors conducted the study from 1995 to 2003, a time when the antiretroviral drugs were not available to most women in Tanzania, including those who took part in the study.

The researchers enrolled 1,078 HIV-infected pregnant women in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Women were assigned to one of four groups and received either a placebo, vitamin A, vitamin A in combination with a multivitamin preparation or a multivitamin preparation alone. The women took the vitamins during pregnancy and continued taking them for as long as they participated in the study

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