HIV-1 is often transmitted from mother to baby during breastfeeding, especially in developing countries where the mother may also be malnourished.
So what role could vitamins play in reducing this risk, if at all? In other words, is HIV the same deadly virus in a healthy person?
Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health decided to find out, and tested 1078 HIV-infected pregnant women from Tanzania who were five months pregnant. They were given either vitamin A or a multivitamin.
For women with low nutrition, the multivitamins 'significantly' reduced levels of transmission of HIV to the breastfed children, while vitamin A on its own actually increased HIV transmission levels, and had no positive effect on mortality levels after two years.
The mutivitamins - and, in particular, B, C and E - should be a regular part of the diet of pregnant women who are HIV-positive, say the researchers, a recommendation that has significance everywhere, and to everyone.
(Source: AIDS, 2002; 16: 1935-44).