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Control Clin Trials. 1999 Feb;20(1):75-90.

Rationale and design of the Tanzania Vitamin and HIV Infection Trial.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


We present the rationale and design of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of vitamin supplements among HIV-positive pregnant women in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Higher levels of intake of vitamins A, B, C, and E may decrease the risk of vertical transmission and progression of HIV infection by enhancing maternal and infant immune function; by reducing viral load in the blood, breast milk, or lower genital tract secretions; and/or by strengthening the placental barrier to infection. Eligible pregnant women were randomized to receive vitamin A, multivitamins excluding A, vitamin A and multivitamins, or placebo. The main endpoints include vertical transmission of HIV infection, as assessed by examination of infection in infants using polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and progression of HIV disease as measured by the WHO clinical staging system. Over a period of 2 years, 13,876 women were tested for HIV infection, with appropriate pre- and posttest counseling, to enroll 1085 consenting HIV-positive women. The trial assesses women and their children once a month for a minimum of 18 months after delivery or up to the end of this 5-year study. We examine recruitment strategies and means of enhancing cohort retention in long-term follow-up. We assess compliance with the use of supplements by direct questioning, by counting pills, and biochemically by using serum beta-carotene and urine riboflavin levels. Briefly, we discuss ethical issues related to the conduct of AIDS prevention trials in this setting. In sub-Saharan Africa, most HIV-infected persons lack access to the relevant antiretroviral and prophylactic drugs, and the region urgently needs low-cost treatments and preventive strategies. The Tanzania trial should provide valuable data to address the effect of vitamin supplements in the transmission and progression of HIV infection.

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