Originally published on Advocate.com July 02 2004 12:00 AM ET
An eight-year study by researchers at Harvard University shows that giving a daily multivitamin pill to HIV-positive women in developing nations can significantly delay the development of AIDS, The New York Times reports. The researchers say that vitamins aren't a replacement for antiretroviral drugs, but for malnourished, poor women who cannot afford drugs daily, vitamins are an affordable way to delay the onset of AIDS. The study followed 1,078 women in Tanzania from 1995 to 2003, all of whom entered the study when they became pregnant. About 30% fewer of the women receiving the multivitamins died or progressed to AIDS than women receiving a placebo. Multivitamin recipients also had higher CD4-cell counts than other study subjects. A similar study conducted in Thailand three years ago also showed that HIV-positive men and women taking multivitamins had significantly lower mortality rates. Some AIDS experts suggest cheap multivitamins might be used in developing nations until antiretroviral medications become more widely available and more affordable through international treatment initiatives like the World Health Organization; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.