Micronutrients are vital components of a person’s daily food intake. Though only a small portion is necessary, a lack of micronutrients has been linked to tiredness, anaemia (low iron in blood), reduced learning ability, weaker immune system, and night blindness. In pregnant women, inadequate micronutrients have been shown to affect the development of the foetus and also the well-being of the mother. In regions with high HIV prevalence, food availability may be scarce, which could lead to a double burden of disease in vulnerable/at-risk populations. Specifically, pregnant and lactating women living with HIV may encounter the challenge of adequate food (including micronutrients) consumption, a weakened immune system, and the nutritional demands of a growing foetus or child.
In this review, four randomised controlled trials, conducted between 1995 and 2006, assessed the benefits of micronutrient supplementation. The trials took place in an urban setting in hospital-based antenatal clinics, with participants being pregnant women who ranged between 12-27 weeks of their pregnancy, and sample sizes ranging from 400 to 1129 participants. Multiple micronutrient supplements improved the health of pregnant women and their offspring. No significant adverse effects were reported. Zinc supplementation did not show any significant beneficcial effects. Although it did not have any effect on the mother's pregnancy or her HIV disease, supplementation with selenium may increase the likelihood of a child surviving, and may reduce the likelihood of the mothers having diarrhoea. However, there is not enough evidence to determine the effect of micronutrient supplementation to pregnant women living with HIV who are being treated with antiretroviral medications.