Concurrent use of Antiretroviral and African traditional medicines amongst people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA) in the eThekwini Metropolitan area of KwaZulu Natal

  • Mncengeli Sibanda
  • Nlooto M. Manimbulu
  • Panjasaram Naidoo
Keywords: African traditional medicines, AIDS, ARV, complimentary medicines, Drug-Herb interactions, Herbal medicine, HIV, Indigenous medicine, Medical Pluralism, South Africa


Background: People living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA) often use African Traditional Medicines (ATM) either alone or in combination with Western medicines including Antiretrovirals (ARV).

Objective: To explore the prevalence of concurrent Antiretrovirals (ARV) and African Traditional medicines (ATM) use and determine the effects of any concurrent use on the CD4+ Lymphocyte count and Viral Load (VL) of PLWA in the eThekwini Metropolitan area.

Methods: A descriptive and exploratory study was carried out on 360 patients. Information was gathered on patients socioeconomic characteristics, ATM usage, outcome measures of HIV disease progression (CD4+ Count, VL). The data was analysed using descriptive statistics, univariate and multivariate analyses.

Results: 4.98% (14/281) of the patients used ATM and ARV concurrently during the study period. Over 65% (185/281) reported ATM use before diagnosis with HIV whilst 77.6% (218/281) reported previous ATM use after their HIV diagnosis but before initiation with ARV. Place of residence (p=0.004), age (p<0.001) and education level (P=0.041) were found to be significantly and positively correlated with ATM use. There were no statistically significant changes in mean plasma CD4+ Count and inconclusive effects on VL during the period of the study in the group taking ARV alone when compared with the group using ARV and ATM concomitantly.

Conclusion: Concurrent ARV and ATM use is quite low (4.98%) when compared to ATM use before HIV diagnosis and after HIV diagnosis but before initiation with ARV. This may point to efficient pre-counselling efforts before ARV initiation by health care professionals. This study also demonstrated that there were no significant differences in the CD4+ and inconclusive effects on VL, between patients taking both ARV and ATM concomitantly and those using ARV alone.

Keywords: African traditional medicines, AIDS; ARV; complimentary medicines, Drug-Herb interactions, Herbal medicine,HIV; Indigenous medicine, Medical Pluralism, South Africa


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1680-6905