HIV & AIDS

The Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is not a disease, but rather a group of illnesses that a person is likely to develop because of a weakened immune system after they have been infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

  Tuberculosis , Syphilis, Candidiasis, Esophagitis, Herpes Zoster, Pancreatitis, Gastroenteritis, Pneumonia and Meningitis are the most common illnesses associated with an HIV infection. They are collectively referred to as “opportunistic infections” and each one of these illnesses has a specific treatment regime. It is certainly not uncommon for several of these conditions to exist in the same person all at once and this is usually an indication of the severity of the HIV infection. In fact, current medical standards stipulate that any person infected with HIV that begins to show signs and symptoms of one or more opportunistic infections should begin immediate treatment for the HIV infection in addition to whatever other treatment they may also require.

For persons identified as being HIV positive through specific medical testing and not having any signs and symptoms of opportunistic infections, the option to start treatment is based on the results of those tests. However, more often that not, these individuals will have results that do not indicate a need for medication. If, however, there are signs and symptoms of one or more opportunistic infections, then immediate treatment is indicated and their management must take into account any other illnesses that may be occurring at the same time. This will often require consultation with highly specialized doctors to identify and treat the possible opportunistic infections. Women who are pregnant and infected with HIV will also require treatment, regardless of their test results or general state of health, in order to prevent transmission to the unborn child.

Once the need for HIV treatment has been confirmed for whatever reason, the goals of this treatment will be to inhibit further replication of the virus within that person’s body as well as to reduce the risk of developing opportunistic infections and ultimately death. Anti-Retroviral therapy (ARV or ART) is the use of one or more specific medications which are designed to achieve these purposes. These drugs can only be obtained via prescription from a certified medical practitioner who will need to first, assess your general state of health to determine which drugs would be best indicated for you; then monitor your reaction to the drug in order to assess whether or not it is effective, as well as to identify and address any side effects which may arise with the use of these drugs. It is important to note that once you get started on ART there is no turning back… you will need to continue taking them for the rest of your life.

Many persons will also opt to use complementary natural therapies to help them cope with HIV/AIDS. These include relaxation techniques like visualization and meditation as well as physical therapies like acupuncture, massage and yoga. Increasing in popularity is the use of herbal medicines. These substances work like standard medicines and are derived from various plant parts, including flowers, berries, leaves and roots. Be sure to pay attention to the dosage and proper use of these substances as well as all the possible side effects.

It is important to discuss this with your doctor before beginning any alterative therapy. Note that not everything that is “natural” (for example, an herb) is safe for you to take. These products can often interact with your HIV medications or even cause side effects of their own. For instance, St. John’s wort will actually decrease the levels of some HIV medications in your blood. You must also be aware that these therapies are not substitutes for your regular medical treatment and so you should never stop taking your medication.