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Individuals with HIV/AIDS ascribed several different meanings to their use of complementary therapy

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QUESTION: What are the meanings that individuals with HIV/AIDS attach to their use of complementary therapies (CTs)?


Qualitative interpretive approach.


Southwestern Ontario, Canada.


66 people with HIV/AIDS (age range 21–66 y, 83% men) who used CTs were identified through community contacts and organisations. 45 were white, 13 were of colour, and 8 were Aboriginal. Time since diagnosis ranged from 6 months to 9 years, and most participants were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms. 52 of the 55 men were homosexual.


20 semistructured interviews were completed in 1993–4 and 46 were completed in 1997–8. The interviews addressed such issues as factors in decisions to use CTs, belief systems about illness and HIV/AIDS, and judgments about efficacy. Collection and analysis of data used an inductive grounded approach.

Main findings

Respondents attached a broad range of meanings to CTs and fit them into ways of coping with AIDS in different ways. Most respondents saw CTs as part of a health maintenance strategy, the goals of which …

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  • Sources of funding: Health Canada (under the National AIDS Strategy) and the Community Research Initiative of Toronto.

  • For correspondence: Dr D Pawluch, Department of Sociology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Fax +1 905 522 2642.