A study presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Chicago shows that two thirds of HIV-positive Americans are using alternative therapies such as vitamins, herbs, botanical products, and other supplements, causing concern among caregivers over possible interactions between the products and anti-HIV medications, Reuters Health reports. Little research has been done on interactions between alternative therapies and standard HIV antiretrovirals, leaving patients at risk of inadvertently boosting or dramatically lowering the blood-based levels of the medications in their bodies, which can hamper HIV disease management, said San Francisco researcher Mark Vosnick.
Vosnick's team surveyed about 160 HIV-positive adults in San Francisco on their use of alternative medications. A total of 67% reported taking at least one compound outside the traditional anti-HIV drug cocktail. More than half said they regularly took multivitamins, 17% used mineral supplements, 12% used Chinese herbs, 12% took other herbal products, and 7% took garlic supplements.
Vosnick said the numbers are worrisome because doctors may not know that their HIV-positive patients are taking the supplements, which are not subject to Food and Drug Administration scrutiny of safety or effectiveness. "Talk to your physician about any supplements that you're taking, any type of alternative meds," Vosnick advised.