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HIV & AIDS Health Center

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Alternative Medicine for HIV and AIDS

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What Is Alternative Medicine? continued...

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.

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.
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