Vitamin A and risk of HIV-1 seroconversion among Kenyan men with genital ulcers

Kelly S. MacDonald, Isaac Malonza, Daniel K. Chen, Nico J.D. Nagelkerke, James M. Nasio, Jeckoniah Ndinya-Achola, Job J. Bwayo, Daniel S. Sitar, Frederick Y. Aoki, Francis A. Plummer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Vitamin A is involved in normal immune function and the maintenance of mucosal integrity through complex effects on cellular differentiation. Objective: We sought to determine whether serum vitamin A levels were associated with altered susceptibility to primary infection with HIV-1 in men with high-risk sexual behaviour and genital ulcers who presented for treatment at an STD clinic in Nairobi, Kenya. Methods: HIV-1 seronegative men were prospectively followed. Vitamin A levels at study entry were compared among 38 men who HIV-1 seroconverted versus 94 controls who remained HIV seronegative. Results: Vitamin A deficiency (retinol less than 20 μg/dl) was very common and was present in 50% of HIV-1 seroconverters versus 76% of persistent seronegatives. Seroconversion was independently associated with a retinol level greater than 20 μg/ dl (HR 2.43, 95% Cl 1.25-4.70, P = 0.009), and a genital ulcer aetiology caused by Haemophilus ducreyi (HR 3.49, 95% Cl 1.03-11.67, P= 0.04). Circumcision was independently associated with protection (HR 0.46, 95% Cl 0.23-0.93, P = 0.03). Conclusion: Vitamin A deficiency was not associated with an increased risk of HIV-1 infection among men with concurrent STD. A decreased risk of HIV-1 seroconversion was independently associated with lower retinol levels. The effects of vitamin A on macrophage and lymphoid cell differentiation may paradoxically increase mucosal susceptibility to HIV-1 in some vulnerable individuals, such as men with genital ulcers. Lack of circumcision and chancroid are confirmed as important co-factors for heterosexual HIV-1 transmission. The role of vitamin A in heterosexual HIV-1 transmission requires further study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-639
Number of pages5
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 30 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Africa
  • Heterosexual HIV-1 transmission
  • Nutrition
  • Risk factors
  • STD
  • Vitamin A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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