Food Science and Nutrition Department
BS in Nutrition
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has infected millions of people since the start of the epidemic in the early 1980s. HIV is the etiologic agent of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which has taken millions of lives. It is extremely difficult for particular populations to receive medication to treat HIV infection and prevent the progression of HIV to AIDS. Multiple studies have examined the effect of vitamin A on HIV infection, due to its immune stimulating effects. It is unclear whether an association exists between vitamin A and different aspects of HIV. This review examined the effect of vitamin A status and/or supplementation on components of HIV/AIDS. Multiple studies determined if vitamin A was associated with a decreased risk in mortality among HIV-infected individuals. Although results were controversial, a majority found vitamin A status or supplementation significantly reduced the risk of mortality in HIV-positive individuals. However, researchers did not find strong results regarding vitamin A and morbidity. Although status was linked to a decrease in diarrheal morbidity, a major cause of hospital admission and even death in many developing countries, it appeared that vitamin A did not have a significant effect on other aspects of morbidity. It was unclear whether vitamin A had an effect on CD4+ T cell count, as studies had controversial results. The same was determined for vitamin A’s effect on HIV progression to AIDS. Although these results have positive implications for using vitamin A as an adjunct to standard HIV treatment, no recommendations have been made regarding vitamin A supplementation and HIV status. Additional research is necessary to determine if vitamin A could be used as a potential therapy for HIV-infected individuals.