Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Interventions in the Management of HIV/AIDS in Kisii County, Kenya: a Qualitative Study of Traditional Healers

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Pharmacognosy and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, School of Pharmacy, Kenyatta University, Kenya

2 Department of Linguistics and Languages, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Machakos University, Machakos, Kenya

3 Department of Communications, School of Humanities and Social sciences, Chuka university, Chuka, Kenya


Background: The use of traditional medicine among people living with HIV/AIDS in Kisii County Kenya is high. There is need for more knowledge on how these therapies are concomitantly used with conventional antiretroviral therapy in the county.
Objective: The current study aimed at exploring the traditional healers’ experiences in managing HIV/AIDS using alternative and complementary interventions.
Setting: The study was carried out in Kisii County Kenya where HIV/AIDS prevalence is relatively high and anti-retroviral therapy (ART) coverage low compared to the national average.
Design and participants: The study took a qualitative approach specifically phenomenological where 12 registered traditional healers were purposively sampled from a registered total of 22 in the county. Two focus group discussions of six participants each were held in addition to follow up interviews for each of the participants. Data was analyzed qualitatively by taking significant statements, textural descriptions and transcripts from participant experiences in managing HIV/AIDS.
Results: Traditional healers dispensed herbal remedies to boost immunity, treat antiretroviral therapy side effects and opportunistic infections such as gastritis, diarrhea and sexually transmitted infections. Counselling, prayer and faith helped eliminate stigma and enhance the will to live among patients. Among the remedies dispensed were Aloe vera, Carissa edulis, Leonotis nepetifolia, Maesa lanceolate and Prunus africanus.
Conclusion: Concomitant use of ART with herbal and nutritional therapy may contribute to immune boosting, reduced opportunistic infections and side effects related to antiretroviral therapy. Counselling, spiritual guidance, prayer and faith may be applied to reduce HIV/AIDS related stigma and improve the will to live.


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