Use of dietary supplements is common among people living with HIV/AIDS. Because dietary supplements are used in the context of other health behaviors, they may have direct and indirect health benefits. However, supplements may also be associated with vulnerability to medical misinformation and unfounded health claims. We examined use of dietary supplements among people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH) and the association between use of dietary supplements and believing medical misinformation.
A convenience sample of 268 men and 76 women living with HIV was recruited from AIDS services and clinics in Atlanta, GA. Participants completed measures of demographic and health characteristics, dietary supplement use, beliefs about dietary supplements, internet use, and an internet evaluation task designed to assess vulnerability to medical misinformation.
One out of four PLWH currently used at least one dietary supplement product excluding vitamins. Dietary supplement use was associated with higher education and greater use of the internet for health-related information. Dietary supplement users also endorsed greater believability and trust in unfounded claims for HIV cures.
Dietary supplement use is common among PLWH and is associated with a broad array of health information seeking behaviors. Interventions are needed to reduce the vulnerability of PLWH, particularly dietary supplement users, to medical misinformation propagated on the internet.
Keywords: HIV treatment, medical misinformation, treatment beliefs, dietary supplements