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December 2013

Multivitamins and Selenium May Slow HIV Progression

Multivitamin and selenium supplementation may significantly slow the progression of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), according to a new study.

HIV is the virus that potentially causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). HIV primarily infects and destroys immune cells with the CD4 receptor protein on their cell surfaces (also called CD4-positive or CD4+ T-cells). Healthy individuals have a CD4 cell count between 600 and 1,200 cells per microliter of blood. HIV patients have less than 600 CD4 cells per microliter of blood. Previous research has suggested that selenium may help prevent infection by stimulating immune function. However, conclusive data is lacking.

In a recent study, researchers randomly assigned 878 HIV-positive patients who were not yet receiving antiretroviral therapy and had a CD4 cell count over 350 per microliter of blood to receive daily multivitamin (B, C and E vitamins) supplements alone, selenium supplements alone, multivitamins plus selenium supplements, or placebo for 24 months.

The researchers found that compared to placebo, patients receiving multivitamins plus selenium supplements had a significantly lower risk of reaching a CD4 cell count of 250 per microliter of blood or lower. Furthermore, multivitamins plus selenium reduced the risk of AIDS-defining conditions or AIDS-related death, whichever occurred first. The authors noted that supplementation of any kind did not affect HIV viral load, nor did supplementation of just multivitamins or just selenium significantly affect disease progression.

The authors concluded that supplementation with multivitamins plus selenium may effectively slow the profession of HIV when initiated in the early stages of the disease. Further research is warranted.

For more information about integrative therapies for HIV, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.

For more information about selenium or multivitamins, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.

To comment on this story, please visit Natural Standard's blog.


  1. Baum MK, Campa A, Lai S, et al. Effect of micronutrient supplementation on disease progression in asymptomatic, antiretroviral-naive, HIV-infected adults in Botswana: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2013 Nov 27;310(20):2154-63. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.

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