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Indigenous traditional knowledge of medicinal plants used by herbalists in treating opportunistic infections among people living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda

: Anywar, Godwin; Kakudidi, Esezah; Byamukama, Robert; Mukonzo, Jackson; Schubert, Andreas; Oryem-Origa, Hannington


Journal of ethnopharmacology 246 (2020), Art. 112205, 13 S.
ISSN: 0378-8741
ISSN: 1872-7573
Fraunhofer IZI ()

Ethnopharmacological relevance: Currently, more than two thirds of the world's 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS reside in Sub-Saharan Africa. Opportunistic infections (OI) associated with HIV are the single most important cause of mortality and morbidity among HIV/AIDS patients in poor countries. There is widespread use of medicinal plant species to manage the HIV infection and it's associated OI in Uganda, even by patients already on antiretroviral drugs (ARV). However, much of this information remains undocumented and unverified.
Aim of study: The aim of this study was to systematically and comprehensively document the traditional indigenous knowledge and practices associated with the management of HIV/AIDS infections by herbalists in Uganda.
Methods: Ethnobotanical data were collected using semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. Ninety traditional medicine practitioners (TMP) or herbalists were interviewed in Arua, Dokolo, Mbale, Bushenyi, Iganga, Rakai, Luwero and Kaabong districts to gather information on the plant species used. Data were analysed and presented using descriptive statistics and the Informant Consensus Factor.
Results: We documented 236 medicinal plant species from 70 families and 201 genera. Acacia was the most widely represented genus with five species. The most frequently used medicinal plant species for treating various OI were Erythrina abyssinica (45), Warburgia ugandensis (43), Zanthoxylum chalybeum (38), Acacia hockii (37), Mangifera indica (36), Aloe vera (35), Albizia coriaria (34), Azadirachta indica (32), Psorospermum febrifugum (27) Vernonia amygdalina (22) and Gymnosporia senegalensis (21). Some of the plant species were used for treating all the OI mentioned. There is a high degree of consensus among the TMP on which plant species they use for the different OI, even though they are geographically separated. Herbalists contribute to the widespread practice of simultaneously using herbal medicines and ARV. Some TMP are also engaged in dangerous practices like injecting patients with herbs and encouraging simultaneous use of herbs and ARV. Although the TMP relied on biomedical laboratory diagnoses for confirming the patients’ HIV sero status, they were familiar with the signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS.
Conclusion: There is wide spread use of a rich diversity of medicinal plants species and practices by TMP to manage OI in HIV/AIDS patients in Uganda.