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J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2000 Mar 1;23(3):246-54.

Randomized trial of vitamin supplements in relation to vertical transmission of HIV-1 in Tanzania.

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



Observational studies suggest that poor nutritional status among HIV-infected pregnant women is associated with a higher risk of vertical transmission of HIV.


We randomized 1083 pregnant women infected with HIV-1 in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to examine the effects of supplements of vitamin A and/or multivitamins (excluding vitamin A) using a 2-x-2 factorial design. We report the effects of the supplements on HIV infection defined using polymerase chain reaction (PCR), or death up to 6 weeks postpartum.


Of babies in the multivitamin arm 38, (10.1%) were HIV-positive at birth compared with 24 (6.6%) in the no-multivitamin arm (relative risk [RR] = 1.54; 95% CI, 0.94-2.51; p = .08). Of babies born to mothers in the vitamin A arm, 38 (10.0%) were HIV-positive at birth compared with 24 (6.7%) in the no-vitamin A arm (RR, 1.49; 95% CI, 0.91-2.43; p = 0.11). Neither multivitamins nor vitamin A had an effect on HIV status at 6 weeks among those who were HIV-negative at birth (RR = 1.04; 95% CI, 0.65-1.66; p = 0.88) and (RR = 1.30; 95% CI, 0.80-2.09; p = .29, respectively). Similarly, neither supplement was associated with being either HIV-infected or dead at birth (RR, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.76-1.27; p = .89 and RR, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.78-1.31; p = .95, respectively. A beneficial effect of multivitamins on birth weight was limited to babies who were HIV-negative at birth; babies in the multivitamin arm weighed +94 g more compared with those in the no-multivitamin arm (p = .02). Among babies who were HIV-positive at birth, the corresponding difference was -31 g (p = .82).


Vitamin A and multivitamins did not affect the risk of vertical transmission of HIV in utero nor during the intrapartum and early breastfeeding periods. Multivitamins resulted in a significant improvement in birth weight of babies who were HIV-negative at birth but had no effect among those who were HIV-positive. The effect of vitamin supplements on HIV transmission through breastfeeding and on clinical progression of HIV disease is yet to be ascertained.

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