Low levels of Vitamin D in the body may impact the efficacy of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) treatment, a new study says.

The virus attacks the body's immune system and anti-retroviral therapy (ACT) is the treatment of choice to hinder viral proliferation and restore the body's immune function. However, vitamin D deficiency may limit the effectiveness of ACT.

HIV-infected people often struggle with declining immune response potency that often predisposes them to common infections and even death. However, since the use of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) was implemented, HIV patients started to live longer.

In a study published in the journal, Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the University of Georgia found that HIV-infected people with sufficient levels of vitamin D recovered more of their immune function that those with low levels of the vitamin.

The 18-month long study involved 398 HIV-positive patients who are on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), a combination of various classes of medicines for HIV that are taken daily. Their vitamin D blood levels were also measured at baseline and CD4+T cell count, the most important lab indicator of immune function, taken in 3 months, six months, 12 months and 18 months.

The researchers found that Vitamin D helped the patient's CD4+T cells, the type of T cell that aid in fighting pathogens to recover faster. The participants with adequate vitamin D levels in the body recovered more in terms of their immune function than those with vitamin D deficiency.

"HIV destroys the capacity of the body to mount effective response to pathogens. Given different vitamin D levels, HIV-positive adults recovered at different rates. We found a relationship between vitamin D and CD4+T cells," co-author Prof. Amara Ezeamama, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Georgia in Athens said.

They concluded that vitamin D supplementation may aid in restoring immune function and in the efficacy of available HIV treatment.

Prof. Ezeamama reiterates that today, there are available treatment options to delay the effects of HIV on the immune system. As HIV treatment is effective, people with the disease can live for up to several decades like those who are HIV-free.

"We can further delay the progress of the disease and maintain survivors on a higher quality of life if we understand the factors that limit the effectiveness of HIV treatment," she added.

HIV cases are still on the rise that is why early diagnosis and treatment are vital. An estimated 37 million people are living with HIV worldwide and 51 percent are still unaware that they are infected.

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