Issues of Ethnopharmacology in HIV Management


Welcome to the National Multicultural Center’s “Issues of Ethnopharmacology in HIV Management” curriculum. This curriculum is one in a series of curricula covering a wide range of topics concerning the provision of culturally competent healthcare services to all individuals belonging to a diversity of ethnic, racial, and cultural groups.

The “Issues of Ethnopharmacology in HIV Management” curriculum contains 4 modules, designed to increase readers’ understanding of:

  • The genetic variations of the human immunodeficiency virus
  • The geographic and racial distribution of various HIV strains
  • Pharmacogenomic issues in the treatment of HIV-positive patients
  • Considerations of ethnopharmacology practices among HIV-positive individuals

Before reading each module, you will be offered a short pretraining assessment to give a baseline view of your knowledge of the topics covered in that module. Then, at the end of the module, you will be able to take a post-training assessment to determine whether you have achieved the module’s learning objectives.

The modules contained in this curriculum are:

  • HIV Types, Groups, and Clades
  • HIV Tropism: Overview and Practical Considerations
  • Pharmacogenomics’ Role in HIV Management
  • Ethnopharmacology and the Treatment of HIV Disease

Pharmacogenomics and Ethnopharmacology

Pharmacogenomics is the study of the genetic variants among individuals that can influence how a person responds to a drug; this is particularly relevant for the treatment of racially and ethnically diverse patient populations. Ethnopharmacology, on the other hand, deals with the study of the medicinal use of herbs and other botanical substances among different ethnic or cultural groups. Because of the variable tropism of HIV and the different strains of the virus, as well as the genetic differences that can affect how individual patients respond to antiretroviral therapy, optimal management of HIV-positive patients requires an understanding of the role of pharmacogenomics in designing and monitoring treatment regimens. Current and future research in pharmacogenomic-related diagnosis and treatment is leading the way to a time when HIV treatment approaches can be tailored even more specifically to the needs of individual patients.

Cultural Competence Implications

The optimal development and implementation of culturally competent care for HIV-positive patients will need to consider not only the divergent subtypes and groups of HIV and the patterns of their geographic and ethnic distribution but also the varying genetic characteristics of individuals and racial/ethnic populations. Each of these factors will play an important part in the selection of HAART regimens and the management of clinical outcomes. Moreover, the cultural beliefs and practices of diverse ethnicities and cultural groups regarding health, illness, and health-seeking behaviors—including the use of complementary and alternative medicine—represent key factors that practitioners should become familiar with and consider when designing management approaches for HIV-positive patients of any racial, ethnic, and cultural background.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the key differences between ethnopharmacology and pharmacogenomics
  • Describe the key differences between HIV-1 and HIV-2, including treatment implications
  • Identify the geographic areas most affected by the different HIV-1 groups
  • Discuss the cultural racial/ethnic implications of the different HIV tropisms
  • Identify the antiretrovirals and other HIV-related treatments that are potentially affected by a patient’s cultural racial/ethnic background
  • Discuss the importance of understanding common traditional (ie, herbal, etc.) treatments used among diverse populations of HIV-positive patients

You can also view the archived Webinar and slides that supplement this curriculum.




Howard University College of Medicine AIDS Education and Training Center - National Multicultural Center