At the end of 2009, an estimated 30.8 million adults and 2.8 million children were living with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus linked to AIDS; with women accounting for just over one-half of all adults living with HIV worldwide. During the same year, about 2.6 million persons became newly infected with HIV, including 370,000 children. Of all people living with HIV, about 68% reside in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS 2010).
Despite these gruesome statistics, there is no cure in sight. Current treatment is based on the use of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs targeted against HIV at various steps in viral replication (Sleaseman and Goodenow 2003). Although ARV drugs can reduce viral load in the bloodstream, they neither cure HIV infection nor restore the immune system to combat AIDS (Roederer 1998, Pakker et al., 1998). Virus is known to persist indefinitely in reservoirs of latently-infected cells and emergence of drug-resistant strains is common. Furthermore, the effectiveness of ARVs in having any clinical benefits at all depends upon a number of factors, particularly the CD4 count and the nutritional status of patients at the point at which ARV treatment is commenced (Hong et al., 2001, Paton et al., 2006). Additionally, drugs are higly toxic and are often associated with adverse side effects to various organs of the body, including the bone marrow and liver, (Fischl et al., 1987, Richman et al., 1987, Costello et al., 1988, Abrescia et al., 2008), cellular mitochondria (Carr et al., 2001) and with lipodystrophy and dyslipidemia (Carr et al., 1998).
Consequently, there is need for safe and effective, nontoxic therapy that can not only restore the immune system and keep virus multiplication/spread in check but also block AIDS progression without harming cells of the host. This review will focus on the relationship of nutrition to infection and immunity and evidence from experimental and clinical studies on the potential value of micronutrients and their combinations in controlling HIV infection and reducing symptoms associated with AIDS.
HIV/AIDs; nutrient deficiencies; micronutrients; nutrient synergy; suppression of viral infection