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J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2006 Sep;43(1):107-16.

Mortality and morbidity among postpartum HIV-positive and HIV-negative women in Zimbabwe: risk factors, causes, and impact of single-dose postpartum vitamin A supplementation.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Zimbabwe, College of Health Sciences, Harare, Zimbabwe.



Vitamin A deficiency is common among women in resource-poor countries and is associated with greater mortality during HIV.


Fourteen thousand one hundred ten mothers were tested for HIV and randomly administered 400,000 IU vitamin A or placebo at less than 96 hours postpartum. The effects of vitamin A and HIV status on mortality, health care utilization, and serum retinol were evaluated.


Four thousand four hundred ninety-five (31.9%) mothers tested HIV positive. Mortality at 24 months was 2.3 per 1000 person-years and 38.3 per 1000 person-years in HIV-negative and HIV-positive women, respectively. Vitamin A had no effect on mortality. Tuberculosis was the most common cause of death, and nearly all tuberculosis-associated deaths were among HIV-positive women. Among HIV-positive women, vitamin A had no effect on rates of hospitalization or overall sick clinic visits, but did reduce clinic visits for malaria, cracked and bleeding nipples, pelvic inflammatory disease, and vaginal infection. Among HIV-negative women, serum retinol was responsive to vitamin A, but low serum retinol was rare. Among HIV-positive women, serum retinol was largely unresponsive to vitamin A, and regardless of treatment group, the entire serum retinol distribution was shifted 25% less than that of HIV-negative women 6 weeks after dosing.


Single-dose postpartum vitamin A supplementation had no effect on maternal mortality, perhaps because vitamin A status was adequate in HIV-negative women and apparently unresponsive to supplementation in HIV-positive women.

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