Selenium is an important mineral and antioxidant, which has several functions in the human body. As an antioxidant, it is crucial in protecting healthy cells against the damaging effects of metabolism. Selenium also plays an important role in the immune system, stimulating a variety of immune responses.1

Selenium deficiency has been observed in a number of studies of HIV-positive people and has been associated with greater risk of disease progression and death. For example, HIV-positive children with low selenium levels died at a younger age, while adults with selenium deficiency were nearly 20 times more likely to die from HIV-related causes.2 3 There is also evidence that HIV-positive people with low selenium levels are at a greater risk of opportunistic illnesses, irrespective of CD4 cell count or antiretroviral therapy.4 It can also increase the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and shedding of HIV in the female genital tract.5 6

There is little direct evidence that supplementation with selenium can improve the outcome of HIV disease. A number of studies have failed to observe an impact of selenium supplements on CD4 cell counts, viral loads or clinical symptoms.7 8 However, it can improve the outcome of antiretroviral therapy, according to a Nigerian study of people with advanced HIV disease, by increasing CD4 cell counts, reducing the risk of opportunistic infections and increasing the rate of weight gain.9

Selenium can be found in a wide range of foods such as Brazil nuts, fish and shellfish, meat, bread, cereals, eggs, cheese, rice and walnuts.


  1. Kiremidjian-Schumacher L et al. Supplementation with selenium and human immune cell functions. Biol Trace Elem Res 41: 115-127, 1994
  2. Campa A et al. Mortality risk in selenium-deficient HIV-positive children. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol 20: 508-513, 1999
  3. Baum MK et al. High risk of HIV-related mortality is associated with selenium deficiency. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol 15: 370-374, 1997
  4. Shor-Posner G et al. Impact of selenium status on the pathogenesis of mycobacterial disease in HIV-1-infected drug users during the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 29: 169-173, 2002
  5. Kupka R et al. Selenium status, pregnancy outcomes, and mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 39: 203-210, 2005
  6. Baeten JM et al. Selenium deficiency is associated with shedding of HIV-1-infected cells in the female genital tract. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 26: 360-364, 2001
  7. Constans J et al. One-year antioxidant supplementation with beta-carotene or selenium for patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus: a pilot study. Clin Infect Dis 23: 654-656, 1996
  8. Batterham M et al. A preliminary open label dose comparison using an antioxidant regimen to determine the effect on viral load and oxidative stress in men with HIV / AIDS. Eur J Clin Nutr 55: 107-114, 2001
  9. Odonukwe NN et al. The role of selenium as adjunct to HAART among HIV-infected individuals who are advanced in their disease. 16th International AIDS Conference, Toronto, abstract MoAb0403, 2006

Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.