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The Effects of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine in Treating Hiv/aids

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The Effects of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

in Treating HIV / AIDS

Matt Guptail

COM 125

February 4th, 2007

HIV/AIDS is the fourth leading cause of death in the world, and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States for those between the ages of 15-24. There have been and continues to be fast and furious research on a cure, a vaccine, and better traditional treatments. However, little research has been done that focuses on the alternative or non-traditional methods that many people use in treating HIV/AIDS. There has yet to be a large-scale study that has been able to identify potential roles for the safe and effective use of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in the management of HIV/AIDS and its complications (Foote-Ardah, 2003). An additional problem is that the FDA does not regulate any herbal or botanical supplements, which affects the ability to do studies on clinical effectiveness (Bain et al., 1997). One concern regarding CAM therapy, especially herbals, botanicals, and supplements, is the possible effect one may have on the other (Donegan and Kaiser, 1996)

Many studies have also been limited in some areas. Some of the studies have a cross-sectional design that does not allow us to directly link the relationship between the CAM therapy and the progression of the disease. In a study done by Chang et al. (2003) they acknowledged that their study did not examine the relationship between the use of CAM therapy and the participants’ faithfulness in their traditional medical treatments. Many, if not most, of the studies are limited by the size of the sample; some samples have as few as 10 participants (Barnes et al., 2001). Another issue is that the definitions of CAM can differ widely from study to study. Some studies include chiropractic care as CAM therapy, while others consider it a form of allopathic medicine. There may also be a conflict regarding the inclusion of exercise and diet as forms of CAM (Bendayan, Einarson, Furler, Millson, and Walmsley, 2003).

Studies have sown that many people who have HIV/AIDS use CAM therapy either to help control the virus itself, or to control the side effects of antiretroviral and other traditional treatments. It is been hypothesized that there are two major reasons people chose CAM therapy. One reason may be that people are pushed toward CAM therapy after they become dissatisfied with the traditional care they have been receiving, and the other reason posed is that people are interested in CAM therapy because it helps them feel like they have more control over their health (Foote-Ardah, 2003). A study conducted in Australia showed the most people used CAM as a complement to traditional therapy rather than a replacement. This same study also indicated that women were more likely than men to use CAM therapies (Bartos and Ezzy, 2000). Previous studies indicated those who are actively involved in their health care or whom are more symptomatic are more likely to use CAM therapy (Targ, 2000). Many of those who use CAM therapies have reported an improved quality of life, an improved sense of control, increased symptom control, and the ability to do more tasks (Bauer et al., 2000). A smaller percentage of those studies have reported that CAM therapy helped to extend their survival, slowed the progression of HIV to AIDS, and helped maintain or raise CD4+ levels (Calabrese et al, 1998) A study by Chang et al. (2003) indicated that physical or mind/body therapy, such as stress management and massage, have shown promising effects in treating anxiety, improving mood, and reducing anger. Some vitamins, herbs, and supplements have also been repoted by participants in the same study to help prevent weight loss, diarrhea, and nausea, and to relive stress and help with depression (Chang et al., 2003).

The effects of CAM have been studies to some extent in the past few years. The studies show a wide range of responses when questioned about the effects of this therapy both physically and emotionally. The high prevalence of CAM therapy among HIV/AIDS patients suggests these therapies play an important role in their overall health care management (Bartos and Ezzy, 2000). Studies have sown that between 30% and 91% of HIV/AIDS patients use CAM therapy in some form (Bartos and Ezzy, 2000; Calabrese et al., 1998; Bauer et al., 2000). Research has also shown that there is a correlation between the utilization of Cam therapy and viral load (Barnes et al., 2001).

The use of Echinacea in the treatment of HIV/AIDS is a controversial

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