HIV treatments boosted with vitamin D
HIV treatments in adults could be less effective due to low levels of vitamin D, according to new research. While many HIV positive people are able to enjoy a long and vigorous life, some see their health decline over time because of their immune system not responding properly.
Dr Amara Ezeamama, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Georgia's College of Public Health, conducted an 18-month long study on the immune systems of 398 HIV-positive adults. They were put highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), normally made up of three or more drugs. It's the most common and effective treatment for HIV in adults. They were given drugs to improve the amount of CD4+T cells - a vital immune cell - in their bodies. Their statuses were measured at the beginning of the study as well as three, six and 12 months in, before a final check at the end of the 18 months.
The researchers found a link between the rise in immune function to whether the person being treated had adequate levels of the vitamin. Those with more vitamin D saw the CD4+T cells recover quicker - on average they had 65 cells more than those lacking the nutrient.
"HIV destroys the capacity of the body to mount effective response to pathogens," the doctor explained. "Given different vitamin D levels, HIV-positive adults recovered at different rates. We found a relationship between vitamin D and CD4+T cells.
"Because of the immune-destroying effects of HIV, infection usually results in relatively quick death without treatment.
"The magic of antiretroviral therapy, the name for drugs to treat HIV, lies in its ability to restore immune function. With antiretroviral drugs, people with HIV are beginning to live longer lives.
"Our goal was to understand whether vitamin D deficiency limits the amount of immune recovery benefit for persons on HIV treatment."