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Alternative Medicine for HIV and AIDS

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What You Should Know About Alternative Medicine

It's best to take precautions when trying out something new. The field of alternative medicine is not regulated or researched the way standard Western drugs or techniques are.

  • Talk to your doctor about any alternative medicine you want to try. Know that some doctors may discourage you because of the lack of evidence about effectiveness and the potential of unknown side effects and interactions with other treatments.
  • Check on costs. Health insurance covers some types of alternative medicine, such as acupuncture and chiropractic. It may not cover others.
  • Research the therapy. Investigate the training and experience of the person offering the treatment. Also, talk with others who've used the same type of therapy.
  • Remember that "natural" doesn’t guarantee safety. For example, studies have shown that garlic and St. John's wort interfere with HIV therapy. You should not take them with HIV drugs. Also, the safety of products varies. This depends on where the ingredients come from and the quality of the process used to manufacture them.

Be cautious about "miracle cures" or treatments that claim they can treat a wide variety of ailments. Look for studies backing the claims. Success stories are often based on anecdotal evidence (individual experience), rather than on data collected by controlled studies with large groups of people.

Research on alternative medicine is being done. But this is often difficult because:

  • Many types of alternative medicine are highly individualized or customized.
  • Many types of alternative medicine treat the whole person, not a particular illness, making them more difficult to evaluate.
  • Many types of alternative medicine aren't standardized. Different brands of herbs, for example, may have different amounts of active ingredients.
  • It is expensive to do research. The makers or practitioners of these therapies do not have the kind of financial resources drug companies do.

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on August 16, 2014
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