Research from Emory University in Atlanta indicates that patients with HIV/AIDS might be using CAM as an alternative to highly active anti-retroviral (HAART) HIV/AIDS treatment regimens.

At least among Black women in Alabama and Georgia.

First, the details.

  • 366 HIV-positive, mostly adult African-American women were enrolled in a program to reduce high-risk sexual behavior.
  • Women were classified as CAM users if they reported taking herbal/natural immunity boosters (Chinese herbs, mushrooms, garlic, ginseng or algae) or multivitamins, or reported using religious/psychic health or bodywork to treat HIV.
  • Women were “non-adherent” if they reported missing any doses of their HAART medication in the 30 days preceding baseline assessment.

And the results.

  • Women using CAM were significantly more likely than those not using CAM to report missing HAART doses in the last 30 days even after adjusting for age, education, race, religion and income.

The bottom line.
Not taking medicine as directed is the Achilles’ heel of AIDS treatment. In a controlled environment where compliance is assured, HAART treatment results in low or undetectable viral levels in up to 85% of patients. But in the real world, only 50% of patients have this type of positive response to treatment. The main reason for “failure” is poor adherence to HAART regiments.

AIDS treatment is expensive and inconvenient. And there’s an allure to taking “natural” stuff. Unfortunately, when it comes to HIV/AIDS, people who replace HAART with CAM are making a bad choice.

5/20/07 17:47 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.