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HIV & AIDS Health Center

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Multivitamins May Help Fight HIV Progression: Study

But supplements tested only on those who hadn't started medications

continued...

Overall, the risk that the disease would progress over the two years of the study was fairly low: 32 of the 217 who took the placebo suffered progression of the disease, she said, compared to 17 of the 220 who took the vitamin/mineral combination.

Baum didn't have information about the costs of the supplements, but she said they are low. In the United States, supplements that contain many vitamins and minerals can cost just pennies a day.

The supplements appeared to have no side effects, said Baum, who recommends that people newly diagnosed with HIV begin taking multivitamins. They seem to boost the immune system, she said. The selenium supplements, in particular, may provide enough of the mineral that the virus isn't able to hog it, she said.

Baeten cautioned that not just any multivitamin will do. "The results of this study appear to illustrate that it is not just any supplement," he said.

"Only the combination of vitamins plus selenium was effective," Baeten said. "For U.S. patients, this latter point is relevant, as there's a huge variety of supplements available. I would suggest talking with a doctor before taking any supplements."

He added that the study doesn't detract from the crucial importance of anti-retroviral drug treatment.

Researchers next want to see if the supplements help patients already taking anti-retroviral medications, study author Baum said.

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