Treatment Review #17 - March 1995
(This article is written by a Network member, Marlene Diaz. She
attends conferences as a representative of The Network, the HIV
Law Project, and the Beth Israel Women's Project. She is a
regular contributor to this newsletter.)
I agreed to participate at the Fifth Annual Statewide HIV/AIDS
Policy Conference. The conference took place in Albany, New
York late last year. This was my first time as a panelist, and
I looked forward to exchanging ideas at the session titled
"Alternative Treatments: Worth it or a waste?"
I have had my share of experiencing both. When I was first
diagnosed I remember going into a health food store and asking
for anything antiviral. Through trial and error (sometimes
costly) I learned some lessons such as the importance of using
herbs under the guidance of an herbologist who is familiar with
HIV. Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, has benefited my
health by reducing stress, aiding my body in detoxifying itself
and helping create an energy balance.
If you are considering any treatment, alternative or otherwise,
it's important to get together information so you can make a
decision. At the conference, speaking about finding an
acupuncturist, Kevin Ergil, dean of Pacific Institute of
Oriental Medicine emphasized the importance of an
acupuncturist's credentials. Is s/he licensed? Is s/he familiar
It was emphasized that alternative medicine can be used to
complement traditional medicine - for instance, it can help the
body handle some of the toxic side effects of AZT. A major
concern, however, is the disbelief that many western
practitioners have regarding alternative therapies. Much of
this disbelief stems from lack of knowledge and unwillingness
At a time when more and more people with HIV/AIDS are
questioning the efficacy of AZT, especially after the Concord
study, there is interest in alternative treatments such as
vitamin therapy, herbs, and therapeutic touch. Patients need to
communicate their interest in alternative practices with their
primary caregiver and request that their bloods be monitored
Factors to consider when incorporating any of these therapies
into your regimen are cost, convenience and information. If it
costs more than a car payment, it's too much. Is it convenient?
How does it fit into your life stye? For example, do you have
time for bitter melon retention enemas every morning? And
perhaps the most important thing is how much is really known
about it? Do you have solid information that it works?
Because most of these treatments haven't been in clinical
trials, the emphasis has to be on gathering information from
different sources yourself. Don't just listen to the company's
sales pitch that's trying to sell you a new herbal formula.
Talk to people that have tried it. Research the ingredients.
And always be sure and tell your doctor if you add new
treatments so that she or he can watch for any interactions
and, hopefully, good results.