Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

HIV & AIDS Health Center

Font Size

Multivitamins May Slow AIDS Onset

Vitamins -- Except Vitamin A -- Improve Immune System, Prolong AIDS-Free Period
WebMD Health News

June 30, 2004 -- Multivitamin supplements slow, but do not stop, the relentless march of AIDS.

Only a combination of AIDS drugs can keep a person with HIV infection from dying of AIDS. But now it looks as though multivitamin supplements can prolong the AIDS-free period.

Why is this important? At the end of 2003, 40 million people were infected with HIV. Six million of these people are in dire need of AIDS drugs. Of these 6 million people facing death, more than 5.5 million can't get the drugs that would save their lives.

AIDS isn't the only specter haunting these people. Among other problems, they also face malnutrition. It's a vicious cycle. Malnutrition weakens the immune system. It also speeds the ability of the virus to eat away at the immune system, which in turn makes a person weaker and even more malnourished. No wonder many people in Africa call AIDS "slim disease."

Might vitamin supplements help? Wafaie W. Fawzi, DrPH, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues decided to find out. They went to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where they enrolled more than 1,000 pregnant, HIV-infected women in a study. The women received multivitamin supplements (vitamins B, C, and E), vitamin A alone, multivitamins plus vitamin A, or placebo.

Multivitamins cut the risk of death from AIDS by 27%. It slowed progression to AIDS by 50%. Women who took the multivitamins had far better immune systems -- and lower levels of HIV in their bodies -- than women who received placebo.

Vitamin A didn't do much by itself. And when added to the multivitamins, it reduced their effect. While more studies need to be done, it looks as though vitamin A is not helpful to people with HIV infection.

The effect of the multivitamins wasn't anything close to what AIDS drugs can do. But the supplements helped -- at a retail cost of only $15 per year. Given the difficulty of getting AIDS drugs to the people who need them, it's possible that multivitamin treatment can prolong the time before a person infected with HIV needs drug treatment. This might help spread too-thin resources a bit farther.

Today on WebMD

How much do you know?
contemplative man
What to do now.
Should you be tested?
HIV under microscope
What does it mean?
HIV AIDS Screening
man opening condom wrapper
HIV AIDS Treatment
Discrimination Stigma
Treatment Side Effects
grilled chicken and vegetables
obese man standing on scale
cold sore