Context: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals frequently have consumed garlic, a popular complementary supplement. Researchers rarely have studied garlic's association with antiretroviral therapies, however, even though that association is very relevant clinically.
Objective: To examine associations of supplemental use of garlic with highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) adherence level and HAART effectiveness (HIV viral load and CD4+ cell counts) in HIV-infected women.
Design: The research team carried out a self-controlled, longitudinal study nested within the Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS). The team used a paired study design that allowed participants to serve as their own controls. The team first identified all of the studies visits in which the participant self-reported the use of a garlic supplement since her last visit (index visit). Then for each index visit, the team identified a matching visit (a control visit) using the following criteria: (a) the visit must be one for the same participant in which that participant reported no garlic supplementation; (b) the visit must immediately precede the index visit (less than 1 year apart); and (c) at the time of the control visit, the participant must have been using antiretroviral therapy identical to that used at the time of the index visit.
Participants: Participants were persons using garlic supplementation who already were participants in the WIHS.
Outcome measures: The research team used a logistic regression model to examine the association between garlic supplementation and HAART adherence level. The team used a mixed linear model to examine the association of garlic supplementation with HIV viral load and CD4+ cell counts.
Results: From October 1994 to April 2009, 390 HIV-infected women in the WIHS made 1112 visits at which they reported using garlic supplements. Seventy-seven HIV-infected women using HAART met the research teams selection criteria and contributed 99 pairs of visits for the study. Among the women who used garlic supplements, 22% were 50 years and older; 58% were black and non-Hispanic; and 23% had less than a high-school education. Neither use of garlic supplementation nor reasons for using garlic supplements were significantly associated with the HAART adherence level, HIV viral load, or CD4+ cell counts; however, use garlic as needed, a potential marker of a disease state, was significantly associated with higher viral load (P=.0003).
Conclusion: Short-term garlic supplementation did not impact HAART adherence level, HIV viral load, and CD4+ cell counts.