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Vitamin D Helps Prevent Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission

Editor's note: This is not something presented at the 18th International AIDS Conference held in Vienna.  But the findings can be significant, particularly in regions where antiretroviral drugs are not readily available.  Black people seem to be more vulnerable than others to HIV infection. They are also more likely to be vitamin D deficient.  Could vitamin D deficiency be a risk factor for HIV infection? One thing for sure is that vitamin D is involved in the innate immunity against bacteria and viruses. That is why people without sufficient vitamin D are more likely to suffer flu and other infections.

Vitamin D helps reduce HIV transmission

One study reported in the Oct 1 2009 issue of Journal of Infectious Diseases suggests that taking high doses of vitamin D may help reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission.

The study led by Mehta S. and colleagues from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts was meant to examine if vitamin D protects against adverse pregnancy outcomes, mother-to-child HIV transmission and child mortality.
Mehta et al. analyzed data from 884 HIV infected women participating in a vitamin supplementation trial in Tanzania and found evidence suggesting that vitamin D supplementation could be an inexpensive method of reducing the burden of HIV infection and death among children.

To be exact, the researchers found the maternal vitamin D status was not associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes such as low birth weight and preterm birth.

But the benefits of vitamin D supplements seemed significant.  Women with low maternal vitamin D defined as having 32 ng/mL were at 50 percent higher risk of spreading HIV to their children at 6 weeks compared with those who had sufficient vitamin D.

Also after 6 weeks, women with such low levels of maternal vitamin D were twice as likely as those who had sufficient vitamin D to spread HIV to their children who were not infected at 6 weeks through breastfeeding.

Overall, children born to mothers whose maternal vitamin D was low were 46 percent more likely to get infected with HIV and 61 percent more likely to die during the follow-up.

By David Liu