While conventional medicine currently admits defeat in treating HIV infection, alternative approaches have shown some remarkable success. A range of studies suggests that Chinese and Western remedies can stave off symptoms and possibly even "reverse
In one study of 35 AIDS patients treated with Chinese remedies to boost their immune system, 30 showed improvements in almost all recorded symptoms. In particular, night sweats, diarrhea and sinus problems were virtually eliminated, and there were clear improvements in diseases of the lymph gland system (Dharmanda et al, Proceedings of Oriental Healing Arts Symposium on AIDS, Long Beach, California, 1988).
A freeze dried compound of the herbs Chelidonium and Sanguinaria was found particularly effective in improving generalized lymph gland disease in another small study of 13 people with HIV or AIDS (J Nat Med, 1992, 3 (1): 31-4).
A year long study by the Bastyr College Research Department in Seattle, Washington, monitored the effectiveness of using a combination of therapies on 30 men with AIDS related complex (J Naturopath Med 1992, 3 (1): 42-64). Treatment consisted of a mixture of herbal or homeopathic medicine, special diet, counselling and hot baths.
Four hours after the hyperthermic treatment, the study participants were found to have significantly increased levels of infection fighting cells with levels peaking at 16-20 hours afterwards. None of the patients completing the protocol progressed to AIDS during the trial or died.
There were also clear clinical improvements, reductions in fatigue, lymph gland disease and night sweats. Symptoms like oral thrush, diarrhea and herpes were controlled effectively.
Yet another astonishing naturopathic result was obtained by French researchers with 27 HIV positive people, 15 of whom had full blown AIDS. Statistically significant improvements occurred in all the patients who stayed on a Stone Age diet one that excluded cooked food, wheat and cow's milk products for more than six months. Most startling of all, the health of 11 of the 17 patients who elected to return to their normal diet significantly deteriorated within a few months, and even earlier in those with advanced AIDS (Institut de l'Anthropologie Genetique, F-77650 Montrame, France).
Potentially far more dramatic, however, are those studies which suggest herbal treatment can turn an HIV positive status to an HIV negative one.
Dr Stephen Gasgoine (Manual of Conventional Medicine for Alternative Practitioners, vol 1, Jigma Press, UK, 1993) reports an unpublished trial carried out in Africa by Professor BoPing Wu of the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing.
The professor treated 158 HIV positive patients with Oriental medicine between 1988 and 1991. He concluded that the T-cell count (the cells which help the body fight off infection) increased in 31 per cent of patients. Eleven patients (7 per cent) became HIV antibody negative after treatment.
Slightly better reversal rates have been found with homeopathy. In a 1989 Indian study of asymptomatic HIV positive patients (Homoeop J, Jan 1993), carried out by India's Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy, 9.3 per cent, or 12 of 129 patients, tested HIV negative after homeopathic treatment, after an average of just over seven months.
These findings should be treated with circumspection. Many questions still exist about the quality of the ELISA assay test used to detect HIV infection. A substantial body of medical opinion believes that HIV alone isn't the cause of AIDS but could be a co-factor or marker of immune dysfunction.
Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, osteopath and homeopath.