Testing strategies to reduce diarrhea in persons with HIV using traditional Chinese medicine: Acupuncture and moxibustion

Joyce K. Anastasi, Donald J. McMahon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Diarrhea affects more than 60% of persons living with HIV/AIDS. Diarrhea can be caused by pathogens, neoplastic diseases, side effects of medications, malabsorption, and/or enteropathy. Activities of daily living and quality of life are often affected by HIV/AIDS-related diarrhea. Traditional Chinese medical interventions such as acupuncture and moxibustion show promise in the area of gastrointestinal symptom management. The purposes of this study were to (a) determine the influence of acupuncture and moxibustion in reducing the frequency of diarrhea and increasing stool consistency in HIV-infected men with chronic diarrhea (defined as three or more episodes of watery, liquid, or loose stools in a 24-hour period for 3 weeks or more), (b) ascertain the feasibility of the methodology for a future prospective randomized controlled trial, and (c) determine sample size estimate for a prospective randomized controlled trial. Using a time-series design, 15 HIV-positive men with chronic diarrhea received the same acupuncture/moxibustion treatment for six sessions over a 3-week period. Each participant maintained a daily stool frequency/consistency and medication diary. All treatments were administered by a licensed acupuncturist trained in traditional Chinese medicine. Based on the intent to treat analysis comparing the change in stool frequency from baseline (Week 1) to Week 3 and Week 4, stool frequency reduced approximately one episode per day (Week 3: p < .001; Week 4: p < .005). Stool consistency also improved, from baseline to Week 3 and Week 4, by more than 1 point on Hansen's stool consistency scale. Acupuncture and moxibustion are promising modalities for the symptom management of chronic diarrhea in HIV/AIDS. The results of this pilot study also establish the feasibility of a larger study and provide the empirical basis to serve as preliminary data from which to estimate statistical power and sample size for a larger efficacy study, inclusive of women as well as men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-40
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003


  • AIDS
  • Acupuncture
  • Chinese medicine
  • Diarrhea
  • HIV
  • Moxibustion
  • Symptom management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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