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HIV/AIDS

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Do complementary therapies for HIV and AIDS work?

for Veterans and the Public

Do alternative therapies work?

Healthy people use these kinds of therapies to try to make their immune systems stronger and to make themselves feel better in general. People who have diseases or illnesses, such as HIV, use these therapies for the same reasons. They also can use these therapies to help deal with symptoms of the disease or side effects from the medicines that treat the disease.

Many people report positive results from using complementary therapies. In most cases, however, there is not enough research to tell if these treatments really help people with HIV.

If you want to try complementary treatments to help you cope with HIV/AIDS, please remember these things:

  • Always talk to your VA health care provider before you start any kind of treatment, even if you think it is safe.
  • Just because something is "natural" (an herb, for example) doesn't mean that it is safe to take. Sometimes these products can interact with your HIV medicines or cause side effects on their own. St. John's-wort, for example, decreases levels of some HIV medications in your blood.
  • The federal government does not require that herbal remedies and dietary supplements be tested in the same way that standard medicines are tested before they are sold. Many of the treatments out there have not been studied as much as the HIV drugs you are taking. It is always a risk to take something or try something that hasn't been fully studied or researched.
  • Be careful of treatments that claim to be "miracle cures"--ones that claim to cure HIV/AIDS. There are people out there who may try to trick you into buying an expensive product that doesn't work. Always do your research and ask your VA doctor for help.
  • Complementary therapies are not substitutes for the treatment and drugs you receive from your VA doctor. Never stop taking your anti-HIV drugs just because you've started another therapy.
  • The federal government is funding studies of how well some alternative therapies work to treat disease, so keep your eyes open for news about these studies.

Here you can read about some of the more common complementary therapies that people with HIV use. Sometimes these are used alone, but often they are used in combination with one another. For example, some people combine yoga with meditation.