Effect of traditional herbs on immunological and virological markers of HIV disease progression
HIV/AIDS is proving to be the most costly disease in recent history to prevent, control and manage. Current anti-retroviral drugs, beset with problems of cost, availability, compliance and viral resistance, are unlikely to be available to most developing countries at a public health level. A large proportion of the Zimbabwean population still consult traditional medical practitioners and this provides alternative and relatively cheaper management of HIV/AIDS. However, the effect of traditional herbs on the HIV disease has not been scientifically documented. Thus a study was carried out to assess the effect of traditional herbs on clinical and biological markers of HIV disease progression, by comparing these outcome variables in HIV/AIDS patients on traditional herbs (Phytotherapy, PT) and those on conventional medical care (CMC) alone. Of 150 adult HIV/AIDS patients (76 males; 74 females), 115 volunteered for PT and 35 for CMC. Patients were followed up every 3 months for 12 months. Patients on PT showed significant increases in clinical condition at all follow up levels compared to those on CMC. Immunological status (measured as CD4 counts) increased in both groups but more so in patients on PT. Patients whose immune system was severely compromised(CD4 counts <200 cells µL-1) responded better to both treatments than less compromised patients (CD4 counts >200 cells µL-1). There were no significant changes in the amount of virus in blood of patients on PT or CMC. The findings suggest that traditional herbs improve clinical and immunological status and hence they have a role to play in the management of HIV/AIDS patients and add value to standard CMC.
The Zimbabwe Science News Volume 35 (1+ 2) 2001, pp. 18-26