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October 2021

J Altern Complement Med. 1998 Fall; 4(3): 281-7.

Treatment of human immunodeficiency virus-positive patients with complementary and alternative medicine: a survey of practitioners.

Calabrese C, Wenner CA, Reeves C, Turet P, Standish LJ.

Bastyr University AIDS Research Center, Bastyr University Research Institute, Bastyr University, Bothell, Washington 98011, USA.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices provided to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals, provider experience in HIV disease, patients' characteristics, provider perceptions of treatment effectiveness, and feasibility and interest in future studies. DESIGN: Mailed survey. PARTICIPANTS: 117 providers, recruited from professional associations and conferences, who offer CAM therapies to HIV-infected individuals. Outcome measures: Provider credentials, patient descriptors, treatments prescribed and their perceived effectiveness, health service information, medical information charted, and research participation capability and interest. RESULTS: Providers are treating patients at all stages of HIV disease with a variety of CAM practices, claiming a mean of 6.5 years of HIV disease treatment experience and 105 HIV-positive patients in treatment per provider (solo practice or clinic). Eighty percent of respondents report holding state licenses to practice. A total of 115 different CAM therapies with an average of 12 treatments per provider were used. Ninety percent of providers claimed their therapies were "somewhat" to "very effective" on all disease stages, indicating effectiveness for symptom management (96%), quality of life (98%), raising or maintaining CD4+ lymphocyte levels (66%), slowing progression to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) (69%), and extending survival (73%). Research readiness and willingness was reported by a majority of respondents. CONCLUSIONS: Providers with substantial experience treating HIV disease with a range of CAM practices claim effectiveness for their methods. Providers are generally willing to participate in studies that would examine such claims and appear to have the capacity meaningfully to contribute. These claims should be investigated.

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