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Complementary and Integrative Therapies for HIV

for Veterans and the Public

Complementary and Integrative Therapies for HIV


Many people use complementary and integrative therapies and activities in addition to traditional medical care. With most complementary therapies, your health is looked at from a holistic (or “whole picture”) point of view. Think of your body as working as one big system. From a holistic viewpoint, everything you do, from what you eat to what you drink to how stressed you are, affects your health and well-being.

VA offers complementary and integrative therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, and meditation. You can learn more about these therapies from the Whole Health program.

Do these 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.

If you want to try complementary treatments to help you cope with HIV, 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 medications 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 provider for help.
  • Complementary therapies are not substitutes for the treatment and medicines you receive from your VA provider. Never stop taking your HIV medications just because you've started a complementary therapy.
  • The federal government is funding studies of how well some complementary therapies work to treat disease, so look for news about these studies.