March 22, 2001
Several studies done in the past decade have found that a large proportion of people living with HIV/AIDS (PHAs) use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Now that highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is available, many PHAs who use CAM do so to maintain or improve their energy, reduce side effects of prescribed medications and maintain their state of well-being. Because CAM can interfere with prescribed medicines -- as is the case with St. John's wort and anti-HIV drugs -- it is important for PHAs to tell their physicians about all the substances that they are either taking or planning to take.
A research team in Cleveland, Ohio, recently interviewed several hundred PHAs to find out about their use of CAM.
According to the team, the 10 most commonly used herbs in the survey were:
Other commonly used therapies included:
Given the effect that some herbs, such as St. John's wort, have on prescribed medication, it is surprising that more information about CAM usage was not included in the medical records of the PHAs -- despite the fact that they told the research team that they had informed their doctors about their use of CAM.
The Cleveland researchers hope to conduct future research on CAM, if they can raise money to do so.