Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the pattern of use, reasons for use, and perceived effect of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), accompanied by identification and comparison of the factors that are potentially associated with CAM use.
Design: This cross-sectional study was carried out in 325 randomly sampled patients with human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), at HIV/AIDS referral clinics in the Hospital Sungai Buloh, Malaysia. Simple random sampling was used, where randomization was done using patients' medical record numbers.
Subjects and methods: Semistructured face-to-face interviews were conducted using 38 questions pertaining to type, pattern, perceived efficacy, adverse effects, and influential factors associated with CAM use. In addition, CD4 count and viral load readings were recorded.
Results: Of 325 randomly sampled patients with HIV/AIDS, 254 of them were using some forms of CAM, resulting in a utilization rate of 78.2%. Vitamins and supplements (52.6%), herbal products (33.8%), and massage (16.6%) were the top three most frequently used CAM modalities. Sociodemographic factors including education level (p = 0.021, r s = 0.148), monthly income (p = 0.001, r s = 0.260), and family history of CAM use (p = 0.001, r s = 0.231) were significantly associated and positively correlated with CAM use. However, the majority of these patients (68%) did not disclose CAM use to health care professionals. About half of those who rated their health as good or very good perceived it as a result of CAM use.
Conclusions: This study confirmed the range of 30%-100% CAM use among individuals infected with HIV/AIDS. Although, on the one hand some types of CAM reduced viral load and enhanced the immune system, on the other hand some forms of CAM produced a detrimental effect on the virological suppression, opening this platform to more research and investigation in order to optimize the use of CAM among patients with HIV/AIDS.