Alternative and Complementary Therapies (PDF) by Alexis Broker


									                  New Mexico           AIDS InfoNet                                            Fact Sheet Number 700
                                           ALTERNATIVE AND
                                       COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES
WHAT    ARE                 ALTERNATIVE                DO THEY REALLY WORK?                                    requires a scientific study to show that it is
THERAPIES?                                             It is difficult to find good information on             safe.
A health treatment that does not fit into              alternative therapies.      Get as much
standard western medical practice is                   information as you can before using them.               Paying for the Study:            Scientific
called “alternative” or “complementary”.               Try to find out:                                        research is very expensive. The makers
This includes many different therapies:                • When and how was this therapy                         of alternative therapies often cannot
• Traditional healing practices such as                     developed?                                         afford to pay for scientific studies. The
     ayurveda, Chinese acupuncture, and                • How does it work?                                     government prefers to pay for studies of
     Native American healing                           • Are there any articles or studies of                  western medical drugs because they
• Physical         therapies     such     as                                                                   appear to be more effective. Patents
                                                            this therapy?
                                                                                                               allow manufacturers to make large profits
     chiropractic, massage, and yoga                   • Are the therapists trained, certified, or
                                                                                                               that help pay for research. However,
• Homeopathy or herbs                                       licensed?
                                                                                                               most alternative therapies cannot be
• Energy work such as polarity therapy                 • Are there any known side effects or
     or reiki                                               other risks?
• Relaxation         techniques,   including           Sometimes this information is truly not
                                                                                                               Despite these barriers, some alternative
     meditation and visualization                      available.      However, if it seems like
                                                                                                               therapies have been carefully studied.
                                                       people don’t want to answer your
                                                                                                               Often, this research has been conducted
Some doctors don’t like alternative                    questions, be extra careful. You might be
                                                                                                               outside the US and might not be
therapies. They think there hasn’t been                dealing with a health fraud. See Fact
                                                                                                               considered by the FDA. The Fact Sheets
enough research on them. They think                    Sheet 205, How To Spot HIV/AIDS Fraud,
                                                                                                               for each alternative therapy mention
that patients always do better if they use             for more information.
                                                                                                               research that has been done.
western medicine.

Other physicians like to use alternative               WHY AREN’T                 THERE MORE
therapies along with western medicine.                                                                         WORKING WITH YOUR DOCTOR
                                                       STUDIES   OF                ALTERNATIVE                 Tell your doctor as much as possible
They think alternative therapies can
                                                       THERAPIES?                                              about how you want to deal with your HIV
reduce stress, relieve some of the side
                                                       Most research tests treatments for a                    infection. Tell your doctor about all the
effects of antiviral drugs, or have other
                                                       particular disease or condition. Every                  therapies you use.          This is very
                                                       patient gets exactly the same treatment.                important if you have any kind of bad
                                                                                                               reaction to a medicine that you are taking.
                                                       Specific Disease or Condition: Some                     There could be some alternative therapies
HOW   MANY    PEOPLE   USE                             alternative therapies treat the whole                   that you should not use together with your
ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES?                                 person, not an illness. They might restore              HIV medications.
Alternative therapies are very popular. In             harmony, balance, or normal energy flow.
the United States, over 70% of people                  Acupuncturists, for example, use the                    Check your doctor’s attitude and
with HIV have used some kind of an                     pulse to see if your body’s energy is out of            knowledge on alternative therapies.
alternative therapy. Many people use                   balance. Acupuncture for people with HIV                Ideally, your doctor can keep an open
them regularly. Some health insurance                  is based on their individual energy                     mind and help you evaluate alternative
plans pay for therapies such as                        pattern, not on their HIV. Therapies like               therapies that interest you.
chiropractic or acupuncture.                           this might help people with HIV, but they
                                                       are not designed to treat HIV.
                                                                                                               THE BOTTOM LINE
ARE THEY SAFE?                                         Standardized        Treatment:        Few               Most people with HIV use some kind of
Alternative therapies can have dangerous               alternative therapies are standardized.                 alternative or complementary therapy.
side effects. The words “natural” or “non-             Different brands of herbs can have                      Some alternative therapies can be
drug” do not guarantee safety. The US                  different amounts of the active ingredient.             dangerous. Others are safe to use.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does                Chiropractic, acupuncture, and other                    Some have been carefully studied and
not approve dietary supplements or                     therapies are not standard. They are                    can improve your health.
monitor their safety or contents. Some                 adjusted for each patient. Research is
herbs can lower blood levels of antiviral              very difficult when treatments are not                  It is difficult to study alternative therapies.
drugs. Consumers need to be careful                    standardized.                                           Find out as much as you can before
when using alternative therapies.                                                                              you start using an alternative therapy.
                                                       Safe Treatments: The FDA wants to                       Let your doctor know about the therapies
                                                       know that a therapy is safe before they                 you are using.
                                                       test how well it works. Even if a treatment
                                                       has been used for many years with no
                                                       reports of health problems, the FDA                                           Revised March 22, 2002
   A Project of the New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center. Partially funded by the National Library of Medicine and the New Mexico Department of Health
                                         Fact Sheets can be downloaded from the Internet at

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