Background: Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is becoming a pillar in the rehabilitative efforts for many living with HIV/AIDS. A community-based research program called the Living Well Lab (LWL) was established in 2007, operating out of Friends For Life (FFL), a non-profit wellness center in Vancouver, Canada offering free CAM therapies to people living with HIV/AIDS. Therapies range from naturopathy to yoga. The LWL partnered with academic and community organizations to evaluate CAM use and changes in health and quality of life outcomes of FFL’s HIV+ members.
Methods: A longitudinal, combined methods approach assessed the health- and quality-of-life-related outcomes and experiences of CAM users. Participants completed outcome packages (5 time points) over 18 months, which focused on changes in physical and emotional states, satisfaction with services and social support. Interviews were conducted at baseline, 9- and 18-month time points. Quantitative analyses were descriptive while content analysis and thematic coding were used in the qualitative analysis.
Results: Two hundred and seven members enrolled in the LWL. Quantitative data demonstrated improvement in mental and physical wellbeing, social support and patient satisfaction specifically: SF-12, Arizona Integrative Outcomes Scale and three visual analog scales (stress, pain and energy). Participants felt several factors contributed to these changes such as managing anxiety, accepting their illness, learning to relax, an increased capacity for self-care and social support.
Conclusions: CAM use may be associated with changes to physical, social and mental wellbeing. Issues throughout the study provided important lessons for future research.