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Alternative Medicine for HIV and AIDS

Anti-retroviral therapies have brought renewed hope for many people living with HIV. However, they do not offer a cure, and they can cause many side effects.

For these and other reasons, more than 70% of HIV-positive people have turned to alternative medicine for help. Some people use alternative medicine instead of standard Western medicine. However, most people choose to use alternative medicine along with standard Western medicine. This is called "complementary" or "integrative" medicine.

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Alternative medicine includes many types of therapy. The goals of these therapies are to:

  • Strengthen your immune system
  • Provide relief from symptoms and drug side effects
  • Improve your quality of life


What Is Alternative Medicine?

Alternative medicine involves a range of healing approaches. Many are holistic in approach. This means they connect the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Following are a few examples of AIDS and HIV alternative medicine. It's important to note that alternative medicine is not approved by the FDA or regulated by the U.S. government.

Alternative medical systems. These have evolved separately from -- and in some cases, before -- standard Western medicine.

  • Homeopathic medicine is an individualized treatment. It includes natural substances such as minerals, vitamins, and herbs. It is based on a principle that these substances can cure, when given in small doses.
  • Naturopathic medicine uses natural healing forces within the body to help it heal and stay healthier.
  • Ayurveda is an example of a system practiced mainly in another area of the world -- in this case, the Indian subcontinent. It emphasizes the use of the body, mind, and spirit to prevent and treat diseases. 

Physical therapies focus on the body and senses to promote healing and a sense of well-being.

  • Yoga is an ancient system of breathing and stretching exercises, postures, and meditation.
  • Massage therapy involves touching or rubbing body tissues to reduce pain and improve blood flow.
  • Acupuncture requires the insertion of tiny needles into certain areas of the body. It can be used for a variety of reasons. For example, acupuncture may be used to increase energy, reduce fatigue, decrease nerve pain, oe even help with addiction.
  • Chiropractic is a system of manipulation and treatment of body structures, especially the spine.

Mind-body therapies use the mind and spirit to help lessen pain, stress, and other side effects.

  • Meditation helps quiet and focus the mind and body. It often involves deep breathing.  
  • Visualization uses the imagination to help you picture being in a safe, relaxing place.
  • Humor and inspirational audiotapes are two other types of mind-body techniques.

Biologically based therapies use substances found in nature to make the body healthier.

  • Herbal therapies come from plants and may work much like standard drugs.
  • Dietary supplements are foods or substances from foods taken by mouth to add to your diet. They may contain vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, or enzymes. These may be used for a variety of purposes, such as boosting your immune system.

Energy therapies use energy fields to help improve your health.

  • Biofield therapies apply pressure or manipulate the body. Practitioners  believe that energy fields surround and penetrate the human body. They place hands in or through these fields to improve energy flow and your health. Reiki and qi gong are two examples.
  • Bioelectromagnetic therapies use magnetic or pulsed fields to rebalance energy.


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