The relationship between CAM use and adherence to antiretroviral therapies among persons living With HIV

Rae A. Littlewood, Peter A. Vanable

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objective: The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) among people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) may undermine other adaptive illness management behaviors, such as treatment adherence. The present study tests the hypothesis that CAM use is associated with intentional lapses in adherence (e.g., "medication vacations"), perhaps due to negative beliefs about antiretroviral therapy (ART). Method: Cross-sectional interviews with 116 PLWHA were completed using a computerized assessment of self-reported CAM use and ART adherence. Results: Almost half of participants used CAM to treat or manage HIV-related health concerns in the past month, and 78% had used CAM since being diagnosed with HIV. Seventy-one percent of participants endorsed at least one domain of intentional nonadherence since starting HIV treatment. As hypothesized, CAM users did not differ from nonusers on overall ART adherence. Contrary to hypotheses, CAM users were less likely to report taking medication vacations or having stopped taking HIV medications without their doctor's approval compared with nonusers. CAM intensity was also related to intentional nonadherence, such that patients who engaged in more CAM tended to report fewer skipped doses and fewer nonprescribed adjustments to their medication regimen in the past month. Conclusions: Findings suggest that PLWHA use CAM as an adjunct to ART and that CAM use does not undermine ART adherence. Needed now is longitudinal research to determine how a proactive, holistic approach to HIV care interacts with conventional HIV treatment over time, and whether CAM use impacts long-term quality of life and health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)660-667
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Adherence
  • Alternative medicine
  • CAM
  • Complementary medicine
  • HIV

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'The relationship between CAM use and adherence to antiretroviral therapies among persons living With HIV'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this