Persons with AIDS are seeking many different treatments, some using plant products, with the hope of obtaining either a cure or relief of symptoms. There is scientific evidence based on in vitro studies that some medicinal plants do in fact have inhibitory effects on HIV. A consultation on in vitro screening of traditional medicines for anti-HIV activity held in Geneva from 6 to 8 February 1989 offered promise that scientifically valid collaborative studies of traditional medicines, particularly medicinal plants, might lead to effective and affordable therapeutic agents.
Natural products can be selected for biological screening based on ethnomedical use, random collection or a chemotaxonomic approach (i.e., screening of species of the same botanical family for similar compounds), but the follow-up and selection of plants based on literature leads would seem to be the most cost-effective way of identifying plants with anti-HIV activity. No single in vitro screening methodology for anti-HIV activity is ideal and confirmatory assays in multiple systems are needed to examine completely the potential use of a compound.
To promote further research in traditional medicine and AIDS, a list of appropriate institutions where the different activities for the scientific evaluation of plants and their extracts for possible treatment of AIDS can be carried out are included in this document.