People who are infected with HIV sometimes try dietary supplements that claim to boost the immune system or counteract side effects of anti-HIV drugs.
Supplements that may be helpful
- Acetyl-L-carnitine. Researchers have used acetyl-L-carnitine to treat nerve pain in people with diabetes. It's possible that acetyl-L-carnitine might help nerve pain linked to HIV. But it may be helpful only if you're already deficient in acetyl-L-carnitine.
- Whey protein. Preliminary evidence indicates that whey protein, a cheese byproduct, can help some people with HIV gain weight. Whey protein also appears to reduce diarrhea and increase CD4 counts.
Supplements that may be dangerous
- St. John's wort. Commonly used to combat depression, St. John's wort can reduce the effectiveness of several types of anti-HIV drugs by more than 50 percent.
- Garlic supplements. Although garlic may help strengthen the immune system, garlic supplements also interact with several anti-HIV drugs — reducing their effectiveness by 50 percent. Occasionally eating garlic in food appears to be safe.
Be sure to discuss the use of any dietary supplement with your doctor before trying it to ensure that it won't adversely interact with any of your medications.
July 21, 2015
- Longo DL, et al., eds. Human immunodeficiency virus disease. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2015. http://accessmedicine.com. Accessed June 3, 2015.
- What is HIV? AIDS.gov. http://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/. Accessed June 3, 2015.
- Sax PE. Acute and early HIV infection: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2015.
- Bartlett JG. The natural history and clinical history of HIV infection in adults and adolescents. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2015.
- Ferri FF. Human immunodeficiency virus. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2015. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 3, 2015.
- HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/hivaids/understanding/Pages/Default.aspx. Accessed June 3, 2015.
- Guidelines for prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections in HIV-infected adults and adolescents. National Institutes of Health. https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/guidelines/html/4/adult-and-adolescent-oi-prevention-and-treatment-guidelines/0. Accessed June 5, 2015.
- Pollack TM, et al. Primary care of HIV-infected adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2015.
- Natural medicines in the clinical management of HIV/AIDS. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed June 3, 2015.
- Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). AIDS.gov. https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/prevention/reduce-your-risk/pre-exposure-prophylaxis/index.html. Accessed June 3, 2015.
- Lower your sexual risk of HIV. AIDS.gov. https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/prevention/reduce-your-risk/sexual-risk-factors/. Accessed June 3, 2015.