Current management of HIV involves the use of conventional prescription medicines, called 'antiretroviral drugs'(ARV), over-the-counter (OTC), complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), as well as African traditional medicine (ATM). The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of use of traditional, complementary and over-the-counter medicines. A cross-sectional survey of HIV-infected patients who started ART between July 2004 and August 2005 at Dr George Mukhari Hospital (Pretoria), who consented to be interviewed, was conducted. Using a pre-tested structured questionnaire, data were collected by two trained interviewers on sociodemographic characteristics, and on non-prescribed medicines used of three sources: African traditional medicine (ATM), complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. The 180 patients who consented to be interviewed had a mean age of 36.7 (±8.1) years old; 68.8% were female, 86.7% unemployed, 73.9% with high school level of education, 77.8% single. Some 8.9% of respondents used at least one non-prescribed medicine. In descending order, 4.4% of respondents used ATM, 3.3% CAM, and 1.7% OTC medicines. The ATM products used included unspecified traditional mixtures, and those made of the African potato ( Hypoxis hemerocallidea
), and coconut ( Cocos nucifera
); OTC products used were paracetamol and sennosides (Senokot®) tablets as well as a soap containing triclosan 1.5%; CAM products used were "sex booster" capsules of unknown composition, mercury-containing soaps (Mekako®), and the Zion Church of Christ special tea, a mixture of Rooibos tea ( Aspalathus linearis
) plus sunflower oil ( Helianthus annuus
) and prayed for. In conclusion, only 8.9% of HIV-infected patients on ART in this study used a limited range of over-the-counter products as well as those from traditional, complementary and alternative medicine practices.