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Alternative Therapies for HIV

With HIV, it’s very important to see an HIV specialist and to take the medical regimen that the doctor prescribes. At the same time, being an informed patient can help you feel more in control of your own health. If you have side effects, by all means, discuss them with the doctor. Find out if there are things you can do to minimize them. Ask why your doctor chose this particular drug mix rather than others. Understanding can only help.

There are also other things that you can do to improve your mental health and, very possibly, your physical health as well. Most of these things are good advice for all of us, whether we have HIV or not. If a person has HIV, they should check with their doctor before beginning anything new. Sometimes the most innocuous things can interfere with the way a medication works.

Be very careful about where you get your information and alternative therapies. I have seen books in health food stores that claim that they can cure AIDS. They can not. Be sure the information you’re getting is from a reliable source. Alternative therapies can help with quality of life and overall health, but none are going to “cure” AIDS or remove the HIV from a person’s body.

Here are some things to explore:

• Yoga. Yoga has been around for thousands of years. Yoga will help with flexibility and muscle tone, if practiced properly. It’s also known to help reduce stress and help maintain a level of calm. Yoga, for some, is more than an exercise program. Yoga is considered part of a spiritual practice but a person can benefit from the physical aspects without having to subscribe to any particular spiritual tradition. Before you sign up for a yoga class, meet the teacher and be sure they have a teaching style that you like. Talk to them about how they assist new people. Be sure you’re comfortable! Even in yoga a person can have injuries so discuss limitations with the teacher and how you can compensate for them.
• Nutrition. It only makes sense that eating well will make a person healthier in general. A good nutritionist can examine a person’s diet and make recommendations based on the reality of the individual’s life rather than a prescribed program for everyone. It’s worth it to see a nutritionist if you’re not sure of how to improve your diet. Make sure you find someone who is an R.D. (Registered Dietitian.) An RD has a masters degree and has passed state exams to be sure they are competent.
• Acupuncture. Acupuncture is one of the more commonly used alternative therapies. In fact, there are clinics in San Francisco who receive federal funding to provide acupuncture to patients with HIV/AIDS. If you decide to visit an acupuncturist, make sure the person is licensed and has experience. If they have experience with HIV, so much the better. As with any medical professional, it’s important to meet them in person, before a treatment, and be sure you’re comfortable with them, understand acupuncture and what to expect.

Next week, we’ll talk about relaxation techniques, reiki, massage and chiropractic care.

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