Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, is a worldwide health problem. AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which attacks a specific type of white blood cells known as T-lymphocytes. It is measured in the blood as the CD4 count, which is a marker on the T cells; the lower the CD4 count, the weaker the immune system. About 20 million people throughout the world—heterosexuals and homosexuals alike—are infected with HIV; in 1997, 35% of HIV infections occurred in heterosexuals. A massive research effort has produced better treatments, resulting in longer survival and improved quality of life for those with access to the treatments. But there is still no vaccine or cure. The only real defense against AIDS is prevention.
Signs and Symptoms
Primary or initial infection: generally, a flu-like syndrome that occurs in 50 to 80% of those who contract HIV within 2 to 6 weeks, including a combination of the following symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Mouth ulcers
Early HIV infection: generally occurs when the CD4 count is below 500/microliter; sometimes called pre-AIDS or AIDS-related complex (ARC); there is a long latency phase (median time of 10 years) between the initial contraction of HIV and early infection.
- Swollen lymph nodes throughout the body
- Lesions on the tongue or mouth, which may represent a fungal infection called Candida or one called Hairy Leukoplakia
- Low platelet count, which may manifest as easy bruising, bleeding gums, or nose bleeds
- Herpes lesions of the mouth or genitals
- Skin infection
- Genital warts
Advanced stage HIV, often called AIDS: generally occurs when the CD4 count is below 200/microliter and is usually marked by the development of opportunistic infections (those that occur with a weakened immune system).
- Pneumonia, including Pneumocystis carinii (PCP)
- Extreme weight loss and wasting; exacerbated by diarrhea which can be experienced in up to 90% of HIV patients worldwide
- Meningitis and other brain infections
- Fungal infections
- Malignancies such as lymphoma, cervical cancer, and Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) (affects the skin and oral mucosa and may spread to the lungs; KS can actually occur in earlier stages of HIV as well)
Infection by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes AIDS. Seventy percent of HIV transmission occurs through sexual contact. Intravenous drug users transmit HIV by sharing needles. Blood transfusions and blood products caused many infections in the early years of the epidemic, but screening procedures have nearly eliminated this risk in the United States and other developed countries. In addition, a mother can spread the virus to a newborn during delivery and through breast feeding.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Many people with HIV turn to complementary and alternative therapies to reduce symptoms of the virus, lessen side effects from medications, improve overall health and well being, and for a sense of empowerment by being actively involved in their own care. In fact, surveys show that:
- 52 to 68% of those with HIV take vitamins, herbs, or supplements
- 64% do aerobic exercise, while 33% do other forms of exercise such as yoga or strength training
- 22 to 54% obtain bodywork such as massage, energy healing, or acupuncture
- 38 to 56% use prayer or other forms of spiritual practice
- 42% attend group support
- 33 to 46% practice meditation or other forms of relaxation such as breathing exercises
It is extremely important that you share information on your use of complementary and alternative therapies with your healthcare provider, so that he or she can help you determine what is safe and appropriate. While only 26% of medical doctors ask about these practices, 63% admit that they do want to know if their HIV-positive patients are using such alternatives and believe that they are helpful.
Integrative Medicine Treatment Options
We combine the best of conventional medicine with the best of complementary and alternative therapies to give you optimal results.
Here are some options we use at Alliance Integrative Medicine LOCATED IN Cincinnati, Ohio
- Medication, Herbal Therapies and Supplements
- Energy Healing
- Mind/Body Relaxation Techniques
- Medical Massage Therapy
Our HIV/AIDS patients come to us from Mason, Indian Hill, Hyde Park, Loveland and Westchester/Liberty Township as well as Blue Ash, Finneytown, Reading, Springdale, Terrace Park and from all over the U.S.