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Vitamin A Doesn't Reduce Post-Partum HIV Incidence

But researchers identify low serum retinol as strong risk factor for seroconversion among women in Zimbabwe

WEDNESDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- Single, large-dose vitamin A supplementation does not reduce incident HIV in post-partum women in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a study published in the June 26 issue of AIDS. However, women who are retinol deficient are 10 times more likely to seroconvert than those with higher serum concentrations.

Jean H. Humphrey, Sc.D., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues randomly assigned 14,110 African women to receive either 400,000 IU of vitamin A or placebo within 96 hours of giving birth. They also monitored HIV incidence in 9,562 HIV-negative women.

After 12 and 24 months, the researchers found that the cumulative incidence of HIV was 3.4 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively. They found that vitamin A had no impact on HIV incidence (hazard ratio 1.08). In 398 women whose baseline serum retinol was measured, however, they found that those with deficient levels were 10.4 times more likely to seroconvert than those with higher concentrations. They also found that severe anemia was associated with a 2.7-fold higher HIV incidence and that younger women were at higher risk since incidence declined 5.7 percent with additional year of age.

"Further investigation is required to determine whether vitamin A supplementation of vitamin A-deficient women or treatment of anemic women can reduce HIV incidence," the authors conclude. "Our study also underscores the crucial priority of targeting young women and their sexual partners with HIV prevention strategies."

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