Use of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative medicines in people receiving antiretroviral therapy in the Village Clinic in Botswana

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Priscilla Mwanzawa Ntukamazina
Ntambwe Malangu


Background: In Botswana, the roll-out of free antiretroviral treatment (ART) has led to the possibility of concurrent use of ART with traditional, complementary and alternative medicines (TCAM) among HIV-positive patients. The purpose of this study was to investigate the use of TCAM in patients receiving ART in the village Infectious Diseases Care Clinic (IDCC), located in Gaborone, Botswana. The specific objectives were to determine the prevalence of TCAM and ARV concomitant use, describe the most common TCAM products used by these patients; describe the reasons why these patients use TCAM and determine factors associated with the use of TCAM.

Materials and methods: This was a cross-sectional study in which data was collected from 116 conveniently sampled participants, using a self-administered questionnaire.

Results: The prevalence of concurrent use of TCAM and ART was 37.1%. The majority (93%) of participants had used one TCAM product. Most of TCAM products (95.5%) used were taken orally.  Respondents said that they used these products to get energy, manage side effects, boost immunity, and manage HIV/AIDS-related psychosocial effects. They did not disclose the use of TCAM to their health care providers (HCPs). The use of TCAM was significantly associated with being employed and having used TCAM before starting ART.

Conclusions: In conclusion, 37.1% of participants reported using TCAM and ART concurrently. They did so for various reasons and most of them did not disclose this to their health care providers. Health care providers need to encourage open, non-judgmental communication about TCAM use and a holistic approach to treatment. Further studies are needed to establish the effects of specific TCAM products of patients’ CD4 count, viral load and other treatment outcomes.

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