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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Study Says Vitamins May Slow AIDS Virus - 2004-07-12

Broadcast: July 12, 2004

This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

A study of women infected with H.I.V. suggests that vitamins can delay the progress of AIDS. These are the results of a five-year study in Tanzania. The findings suggest that vitamins could delay the need to start costly AIDS drugs in developing countries. Doctors say the drugs could then go to those who need them most.

American and Tanzanian scientists found that the vitamins increased counts of cells that fight disease. And there were some reductions in H.I.V. levels in the blood. H.I.V. is the virus that develops into AIDS.

There are fourteen kinds of vitamins. People who do not get enough of these chemical compounds in their food, or want more, often take multivitamins. The women in the study took multivitamins that contained large amounts of vitamin B, as well as vitamins C and E.

More than one-thousand pregnant women infected with H.I.V. took part. Some received a daily multivitamin without vitamin A. Others received a multivitamin plus vitamin A. Still others took vitamin A alone. The scientists gave placebo pills to a fourth group of women. These pills contained no vitamins at all.

The mothers received yearly medical examinations. The best results were reported in those who took multivitamins without vitamin A for the five years of the study. The researchers found that these mothers were fifty percent less likely to progress to AIDS as those in the placebo group.

Women who took multivitamins also had fewer problems such as mouth infections and diarrhea as their infection worsened. Still, death rates were not much different between the women who took multivitamins and those who did not.

The researchers say the multivitamins used in the study cost about fifteen dollars for a one-year supply. AIDS drugs can cost developing countries several hundred dollars or more.

The study did not include H.I.V. infected men. But Doctor Wafaie Fawzi at the Harvard School of Public Health says he believes men would also gain from multivitamins.

The New England Journal of Medicine published the results last week. Also last week, the United Nations reported that about five million people became infected with H.I.V. last year. That is the most yet. To hear more about the AIDS crisis, listen to the Health Report at this same time on Wednesday.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.