We’ve been asked on so many occasions what our thoughts on alternative medication in dealing with HIV/AIDS? We believe that in many cases, western medicine combined with alternative treatments can be very helpful. I’ve read that alternative medicine, fringe medicine, pseudomedicine or simply questionable medicine, is the promotion or use of practices which are unproven, disproven, impossible to prove, or excessively harmful in relation to their effect in the attempt to achieve the healing effects of medicine. I often wonder if those findings are true. With all the home remedies my mother and grandmother gave me, I should be dead. But I digress.
It differs from experimental medicine in that the latter employs responsible investigation, and is discarded when shown ineffective.
The scientific consensus is that alternative therapies either do not or cannot work. In some cases, laws of nature are violated by their basic claims. In others, the treatment is so much worse that its use is unethical. Alternative practices, products, and therapies range from those which are simply ineffective, to those having known harmful and toxic effects.
Many people living with HIV choose to explore non-conventional therapies to ease the symptoms of HIV and side effects of the medications. Some alternative treatments can complement a person’s standard medical care, but others are not safe. Many people living with HIV use alternative therapies. According to one source, over 70 percent of people with HIV in the United States have tried alternative treatments, and many people have use them regularly. Certain health insurance plans may cover some alternative medicines, such as chiropractic and acupuncture therapy. While alternative treatments do not cure HIV, they may relieve symptoms and can improve a person’s quality of life. However, not all alternative medicines are safe.
Some alternative treatments may have side effects or interact with medications. Always talk to a doctor or healthcare provider before trying alternative medicine. So, the question then becomes, can alternative therapies help? Some healthcare providers support the use of alternative therapies, such as meditation. When used alongside traditional medication, alternative treatments may help relieve some of the symptoms of HIV/AIDS.
Physical therapies may help improve a person’s movement, help them relax, and enhance their overall health. While other therapies, such as Reiki, aim to help restore a person’s energy flow. Like meditation, this therapy treats the whole person but does not directly target HIV. Some healthcare providers support the use of alternative therapies to complement conventional treatment while others do not.
Alternative medicines cannot cure or stop the progression of HIV, and most of the evidence presented is anecdotal. No major research studies supports the use of any alternative therapies to directly treat symptoms of HIV. Alternative treatments are not disease-specific.
This means that an alternative therapy treats the whole person, not just the illness. For example, meditation may help a person with HIV relax and reduce stress. This can have a positive impact on the person’s overall health, but it does not specifically target HIV.
Here are some alternatives for HIV infection and for those at the greatest risk for transmission of HIV argued by my dear friend Dr. Maulana Karenga from his article “Black Men and Women and HIV/AIDS: Shared Responsibility in Love and Struggle. Dr Karenga says:
“stop wearing the many masks which temporarily and only partially hide who you are. Be open and honest about who you are sexually and fully. This means you must quit the self-concealment and making excuses for hiding information and engaging in practices that endanger, harm and destroy lives, and you must get tested, tell the truth, and take the medicine. Yes, we must stop the stigmatizing, the signifying, side-mouthing, discrimination and condemnations against persons of various sexualities and sexual orientations and see all of us as sisters and brothers engaged in a life and death struggle to heal, repair, and rebuild ourselves and our community in the process and practice of healing, repairing and remaking the world. For the illness and epidemic, we struggle against is not just HIV/AIDS and related issues of ill-health, but also the pathology of a racist and oppressive society which affects and infects us also.
Thus, as Fanon reminds us, the problem of health is not only a problem of medicine, but also one of oppression and can only be ultimately solved in the emancipatory and self-empowering process and practice of transformative struggle.”