Since the discovery of HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s, the disease has become a worldwide epidemic, killing 25 million people across the globe. A great deal of scientific research has been conducted to understand and manage this chronic illness which attacks the immune system, preventing sufferers from being able to fight off infections. It was discovered that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus kills CD4 cells (a type of white blood cell) and eventually progresses to full blown AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and is transmitted from human to human by way of sex, blood transfusions, needle-sharing or through childbirth or breastfeeding (NOT through insect bites!). Now that we know how it is transmitted, we know how to prevent it (namely practicing safe sex, using clean needles and rigorous testing). But the fact remains: HIV has become a pandemic in an alarmingly short time and there still is no cure. Despite the fact that powerful antiretroviral drugs have been developed to manage it- and they do make a huge difference in prolonging the life of an HIV infected patient- an estimated 33 million people are currently living with HIV or full blown AIDS. The drugs used to treat AIDS patients are not without serious consequences andit is still a grave and life threatening illness that requires vigilant management and containment.
People with AIDS are more susceptible to infections (tuberculosis, candida, parasites for instance) and cancers (Kaposi’s sarcoma) and other complications like kidney disease, digestive problems (like chronic diarrhea, and “wasting syndrome” in which a person loses a significant amount of body weight), or neurological problems, such as emotional depression and even dementia, or neuropathies which can cause pain and numbness. Sadly, the list of health risks and symptoms challengingthese patients is too long to include here.
How TCM Can Help
The harsh drug treatments are necessary for the survival and longevity of such patients. Acupuncture can help strengthen the patient’s immunity and fight the side effects of the toxic drugs which include (according to the Mayo Clinic website: “nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, abnormal heartbeats, shortness of breath, skin rash, weakened bones, bone death…”) Ideally, the time to begin therapy is before HIV has developed into AIDS. The inevitable energetic imbalance caused by the virus is not as deeply imbedded at this point, so it is easier to shift and control the symptoms. Not only can acupuncture help the patients with their physical ailments from the actual disease AND the side effects of pharmaceuticals used, but it can help with the emotional as well- including the stress that comes with such a diagnosis. Commonly, digestive issues and neuropathies are chief complaints, as well as exhaustion, constant colds or infections and depression.
A Personal Note
I have had the privilege of treating advanced AIDS patients who during their end stages confided that acupuncture felt like theonly thing that improved their quality of life. I believe that acupuncture is an excellent complement to the drug treatment for this disease until we find a cure.