Use of complementary medicine amongst patients on antiretroviral drugs in an HIV treatment centre in Lagos, Nigeria

Curr Drug Saf. 2012 Apr;7(2):120-5. doi: 10.2174/157488612802715627.


Traditional herbal remedies have been used to treat many ailments in Nigeria but the safety of herbal remedies has been the major concerns to many people especially when the chemical constituents of the products are not known. This study is therefore designed to evaluate the prevalence of use of complementary drugs with antiretroviral (ARV) therapy and possible treatment outcome of the concurrent utilization of these therapeutic agents. A descriptive cross-sectional survey of 354 HIV patients attending APIN clinics in LUTH using a consecutive sampling technique was used. There was also correlation of the data obtained from the patients with their clinical case notes. Results showed that only 8.2 % of the respondents' used herbal medicine concurrently with ARV therapy. Ninety percent of the participants were on a two nucleoside and one non-nucleoside based ARV therapy. The most common regimen (55%) was Zidovudine/lamivudine/Nevirapine fixed dose combination while 10% use a protease inhibitor based regimen. The commonly herbal drugs used ranges from Jobelyn [Sorghum bicolor plant leaves (13.8%)], Garlic [Allicin, γ-glutamyl- (s)-ally-L-Cysteine] (10.3%), Ginger [Essential oil] (17.2%) and Aloe vera [Hydroxyanthracene derivatives expressed as Barbaloin] (10.3%). The major reason for the commencement of herbal medicine is the perception that the medicine will boost their immunity (65.5%). However, there was a marginal improvement though not significant (p ≥ 0.05) in the CD4 counts (489.8 ± 195.2; 419.1 ± 236.2) and viral load (5117.8 ± 26092.0; 31136.7 ± 197954.6) of HIV patients on herbal drugs compared to those who are not on herbal drugs. Herbal medicines have potentials to interact with ARVs and thus result in adverse reactions and possibly therapeutic failure. There is need for thorough investigation of the pharmacological action of these herbal medicines in HIV treatment taking into consideration their pharmacokinetic and toxicological profile.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Complementary Therapies / methods
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, African Traditional / methods
  • Medicine, African Traditional / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Nigeria
  • Phytotherapy / methods
  • Phytotherapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-HIV Agents