Estimated Aids related deaths in South Africa: 1 641 218 at noon on Tuesday December 13 2005.
Adding zinc to the diets of HIV-positive children helps protect them, researchers report.
The South African scientists say zinc supplements are a safe, simple and cost-effective way to reduce illnesses such as diarrhoea, a major cause of death in poor communities.
Until now there had been fears that the virus would thrive on zinc. ‘The HIV virus needs zinc for its structure and function,” says William Moss of the United States-based Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. ‘We were worried that giving zinc to children with HIV could enhance the virus’s replication.”
The study was carried out in children with HIV because they are most at risk from opportunistic diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhoea.
The trial, published in the medical journal Lancet, involved 96 South African children aged between six months and five years. They were randomly given either 10mg of zinc sulphate or a placebo for six months.
The levels of HIV in children receiving zinc did not rise, indicating the supplements are safe, say the researchers.