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Reflexive practice: ways of using complementary medicine by people living with HIV/AIDS

Medicine AIDS Australia
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Over half of respondents to five consecutive surveys of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in Australia reported using at least one form of complementary medicine (CM), including vitamin and mineral supplements, herbal medicines, traditional Chinese medicine and massage. CM users were as likely as non-users to be using antiretroviral treatments (ARV) for HIV. Research conducted in other western countries has reported similar patterns of CM use among PLWHA. Given the high rate of CM use amongst PLWHA it is important to understand the meanings of these practices for CM users and how people make decisions to use them alongside ARV. The current popularity of CM practices in Western countries has been attributed to a post-modern scepticism of biomedicine and a loss of status of doctors. Other suggested reasons for the current popularity of CM practices include the rise in consumer culture, the growing popularity of preventative health, the ideology of individual responsibility for health and the influence of the internet on how people seek information about health. The fact that many PLWHA are using CM alongside ARV suggests that decision making and beliefs around health and illness are complex.

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