Many people living with HIV opt for unconventional treatments to alleviate the symptoms of HIV and the side effects of the drugs. Some alternative treatments may 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 US have tried alternative treatments, and many people use them regularly.
Certain health insurance plans may cover some alternative medications, such as chiropractic and acupuncture therapy.
While alternative treatments don’t cure HIV, they can alleviate symptoms and 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.
Read on to find out more about the potential benefits, risks, and interactions with other drugs associated with alternative treatments for HIV or AIDS.
Can alternative therapies help?
When used with traditional medications, alternative treatments may help alleviate some of the symptoms of HIV or AIDS.
Physical therapy can help improve a person’s movement, relax, and improve their overall health. While other therapies, such as Reiki, aim to restore a person’s energy flow. Like meditation, this therapy treats the entire person but does not directly target HIV.
Some healthcare providers support the use of alternative therapies to complement conventional treatment, while others don’t.
Alternative medicines cannot cure or stop the progression of HIV, and most of the evidence presented is anecdotal. No major research studies support the use of alternative therapies to directly treat HIV symptoms.
Alternative treatments are not disease-specific. This means that alternative therapy treats the entire person, not just the disease. For example, meditation can help a person with HIV relax and reduce stress. This may have a positive effect on the person’s overall health, but it doesn’t specifically target HIV.
Alternative therapies and natural treatments
There are a number of natural treatments that a person can try to alleviate HIV symptoms and side effects of medications and make them feel better overall.
Many people get positive results using these therapies. However, there is little research on their safety and effectiveness, and they are no substitute for medical treatment.
Alternative treatments include:
Meditation is a relaxation technique that can help reduce a person’s anxiety. Many people living with HIV have higher levels of anxiety and stress compared to the general population. Meditation can help alleviate some of the anxiety associated with HIV.
Yoga can help a person relax and reduce stress.
Physical therapy can help a person relax, reduce stress, and improve movement.
According to one source, people living with HIV have higher rates of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, than the general population. This can significantly impair a person’s quality of life. Physical therapies can help improve people’s mental and physical health.
Physical therapies include:
- Sport oder Medizinische Massage
A massage can promote relaxation, which can help alleviate anxiety and stress, which are often associated with HIV.
A small study from 2016 provides some evidence that yoga could help reduce depression and improve the CD4 count in people with HIV, which is also antiretroviral therapy. However, this study only lasted 1 month and only had 40 participants, so the results are limited.
In acupuncture, very thin needles are inserted into specific areas of the body. Practitioners believe that these needles release pressure points that can help a person’s body produce chemicals to relieve pain.
Herbal medicines and supplements
Herbal medicines and supplements can be purchased over the counter. Although some manufacturers claim that their products have healing properties, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements, and only a few scientific studies prove their effectiveness.
People should exercise caution before buying herbal supplements and medicines as they can be dangerous. This may be due to a person’s pre-existing health complications or an interaction with HIV drugs.
There is very little evidence for the use of herbal medicines and supplements. If research exists, it is often funded by companies or organizations that have a particular interest in promoting the products. Always talk to a doctor before taking herbal supplements or medications.
Medical marijuana is not legal in all parts of the US. However, some people who have access to it find that it helps improve appetite, reduce pain and nausea associated with HIV drugs, particularly older antiretroviral drugs,
to reduce. Doctor before using marijuana as an alternative treatment for HIV to make sure it doesn’t affect any of the other medications you’re taking.
Studies on the use of medical marijuana among people with HIV have produced a wide range of short-term results. However, there is not enough long-term data to determine the safety and effectiveness of its use to treat symptoms of HIV or AIDS. It may not be suitable for some people, including those with previous substance use disorders.
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Some therapies pose virtually no risk. Some of the safest therapies include:
- acupuncture massage
Before taking additional supplements, a person should always talk to their doctor about potential problems with their HIV medications. It’s important to remember that just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe.
Taking herbal remedies and supplements can be particularly risky because:
- There is not enough scientific research on their safety and effectiveness
- Unlike traditional drugs, the FDA does not regulate them for ingredients and doses
- Dosage and strength can vary significantly
Some supplements may interact with medicines for HIV and other conditions.
People should avoid St. John’s wort as it affects the liver and may alter the effects of HIV and other medications on the body, including protease inhibitors and NNRTIs.
Some people find that alternative treatments and natural therapies can complement HIV therapy. Be careful and talk to a doctor or treatment team before starting alternative treatments.
Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and massage can help a person relax, reduce pain, and improve mental and physical health.
There is no evidence that alternative therapies can cure or stop the progression of HIV. Therefore, always use it together with conventional anti-HIV treatment.