Iron supplementation for HIV-positive children: health benefit or harm?

January 2009

Anemia is common among HIV-positive children and has been associated with rapid disease progression and risk of death. While anemia has many causes, iron deficiency also commonly occurs in areas with a high HIV burden, and HIV-positive children may be targeted by routine iron supplementation programs. Because iron supplementation is potentially dangerous during other infections, like malaria, a Cochrane review examined available evidence on the impact of the intervention on health outcomes of HIV-positive children. The authors did not find any randomized controlled trials—only observational studies and opinions. The authors concluded that there is an urgent need for randomized controlled trials to determine whether iron supplementation is beneficial or harmful for HIV-infected children.

Iron supplementation for reducing morbidity and mortality in children with HIV