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Many HIV/AIDS patients use traditional medicine first before attempting western medicine and some use traditional medication in conjunction with western medicine. This study aimed to assess the use of traditional medicine by HIV patients prior to and after initiation of antiretroviral therapy in the public health sector.
Method(s): A cross sectional study, using a researcher administered, semi-structured questionnaire, was conducted among 686 HIV infected patients in six accredited public sector antiretroviral clinics around Durban and Ladysmith areas, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. The School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, approved this study under reference number SHSEC 012/14.
Results: Majority of respondents (493/686, 71.9%) were female. Overall, twenty-seven percent of respondents (188/686, 27.40%) indicated to have used traditional medicine before joining antiretroviral programmes. Less than four percent of respondents (24/686, 3.50%) reported ongoing use of traditional medicine after starting with antiretroviral therapy, p<0.05. Those respondents, on concurrent use of traditional medicine and antiretroviral therapy, had used TM for HIV infection alone (16/24) while the other respondents (8/24) had HIV with other conditions such as hypertension (4/24), tuberculosis (2/24), diabetes (1/24) and hypertension (1/24). Many respondents (253/686, 36.9%) indicated that their healthcare worker advised them against the concurrent use of traditional medicine with antiretroviral medicines. A few participants (37/686, 5.4%) stated that traditional healers should be given a chance to help find a cure for HIV infection.
Conclusion: There was a significant reduction in the use of traditional medicine by HIV infected patients after joining antiretroviral programmes. This finding suggests that patients may be implementing the advice given to them by their health care providers. It is a good news for clinicians; hence, further research is needed to investigate the rationale and barriers that prevent patients to disclose their concurrent use of African traditional medicines with modern antiretroviral medications.