COMPLEMENTARY THERAPY USE IN HIV-POSITIVE PEOPLE: AN ONLINE COMMUNITY SURVEY

An online survey conducted by our friend, Nelson Vergel and published in Antiviral Therapy. Here is the abstract:

COMPLEMENTARY THERAPY USE IN HIV-POSITIVE PEOPLE: AN ONLINE COMMUNITY SURVEY Antiviral Therapy 2009; 14(Suppl. 2):A34 (abstract no. P-11)

NR Vergel
Program for Wellness Restoration, Houston, TX, USA

OBJECTIVES: To assess the use and types of complementary therapies (CT) and their perceived benefits in a sample of HIV-positive members of a community online health listserve.

METHODS: Members of pozhealth at yahoogroups.com were sent a link to a 13 point questionnaire related to demographics, length of HIV infection, type of CT use, and reasons and perceived benefits of CT use.

RESULTS: The majority of the 135 survey participants were white males over 40 years of age who live in the USA and with least 15 years of HIV infection. The top reported CTs and their perceived benefits were exercise, nutritional supplements, herbs, massage, prayer/ spirituality, meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic and yoga. The most popular supplements and their perceived or studied benefits were fish oils (improved lipids), coenzyme Q-10 (stamina), multivitamins (general health), selenium (immune system protection), N-acetyl cysteine (immune system protection), alpha lipoic acid (improved insulin sensitivity and neuropathy), niacin (improved lipids), whey protein (lean body mass enhancement), acetyl-l-carnitine (improved lipids, neuropathy and cognitive function), DHEA (stamina and sexual function), probiotics (gastrointestinal health and diarrhoea), calcium (bone health and diarrhoea), vitamin D (bone health) and milk thistle (liver protection). A total of 84% believed that they were benefitting from CTs, and 87% informed their physicians about their CT use. CTs were personally funded by 72% of patients, whereas the rest had access to them via community programmes.

CONCLUSION: The majority of this sample of HIV-positive people used CTs and derived perceived benefits. Unfortunately, there are little to no efficacycontrolled data available for most CTs. Also lacking are interaction studies between most nutritional/herbal supplements and HIV antiretrovirals (ARVs). As CT use seems to be common and pervasive in the self-management of adverse events and quality of life, the HIV-positive community would benefit from more controlled studies on popular CTs and supplement interaction data with ARVs.

DISCUSSION: There are obvious limitations to this survey. The majority of participants were long-term survivor/white males over 40 years of age, which might represent those who access HIV-related health listserves on the internet. It is suggested that more information is obtained from other HIV patient populations via other outreach venues. A larger survey sample will be available at the conference.

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