DISA Health Care www.safersex.co.za Fact Sheet Number 703
CHINESE ACUPUNCTURE Because acupuncture deals with energy (cupping). The suction stimulates
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is a healing technique balance, there are not specific the flow of energy. If the cups are
used in traditional Chinese medicine. acupuncture points used to treat HIV. left on for a long time they can
Very thin needles are used to stimulate Instead, your acupuncturist will use leave a red mark.
specific points in the body. These points your pulses and will probably look at
lie on energy pathways called your tongue to find out how your energy Some practitioners use small beads or
“meridians.” Acupuncture treatments flows are out of balance. tiny needles held in place with adhesive
are designed to improve the flow and to keep pressure on an acupuncture
balance of energy along these Acupuncture does not cure HIV point for a few days.
meridians. infection. Many people, however,
believe that it has helped them improve
Traditional Chinese medicine is at least their overall energy, or deal with the
2,500 years old. It views the human side effects of antiretroviral medications WHAT ARE THE RISKS AND
body as a system of energy flows. (ARVs). Some people have used SIDE EFFECTS?
When these flows are balanced, the acupuncture to reduce the upset Some people feel slight pain, numbness
body is healthy. Practitioners take their stomach or diarrhea caused by their or tingling when acupuncture needles
patients’ pulses and examine their medications. Other people find that it are inserted. In rare cases, people will
tongue to diagnose energy imbalances. helps ease the pain caused by feel dizzy or nauseated during
In Chinese medicine, pulses can be neuropathy (See Fact Sheet 555 for acupuncture. There may be a drop of
taken at three positions on each wrist, more information on neuropathy). blood when a needle is removed.
and at three depths at each position. Acupuncture has far fewer side effects
than most western medicines.
Illness is not defined by symptoms or
the name of a disease like “HIV HOW IS ACUPUNCTURE You should not go for an acupuncture
infection.” Instead, a practitioner of USED? treatment if you have had any alcoholic
Chinese medicine will talk about energy Based on your energy imbalances, your beverage within an hour, or if you are
imbalances. The language can sound acupuncturist will select acupuncture using any recreational drugs.
very strange, like “yin deficiency” or points to stimulate. You will lie on a
“liver heat rising.” The Chinese words table, either on your stomach or on your Be sure your acupuncturist knows if you
yin and yang refer to opposing energies back. Needles will be inserted at the are pregnant. Some acupuncture points
that should be in balance, and Qi selected points. You may feel a little should not be stimulated during
(pronounced “chee”) can be roughly pain, tingling or numbness as the pregnancy.
translated as energy or life force. needles are inserted. The needles are
left in place for up to 30 or 45 minutes,
In traditional Chinese medicine, there depending on what the acupuncture is
are many ways to improve the balance intended to accomplish. During that HOW DO WE KNOW IT
of the body’s energy flows. The most time, many people fall asleep.
common techniques used in the
western world are exercise techniques Research on acupuncture shows that it
You might receive additional treatments is effective in treating some kinds of
such as Qigong or Tai Chi, or during acupuncture to increase the flow
acupuncture or herbalism. Fact Sheet pain and nausea. This led the National
of energy: Institutes of Health in 1997 to issue a
704 has more information on Chinese • The needles might be stimulated
herbalism. statement supporting the value of
with a very mild electric current acupuncture for certain conditions. The
(electroacupuncture) World Health Organization lists over 40
Many practitioners of Chinese medicine • Moxa is soft material prepared from
specialize in either acupuncture or conditions that may be helped by
dried mugwort, an herb. Moxa may acupuncture.
herbalism. Very few use both methods. be put on the top end of
acupuncture needles or (rarely) A recent study on acupuncture to
right on the skin. Moxa is burned to relieve the pain of neuropathy did not
provide penetrating heat. This is show any benefits. However, the study
WHY DO PEOPLE WITH HIV called moxibustion. design has been criticized for using the
USE ACUPUNCTURE? • Round glass cups can be used to same acupuncture points for everyone
create suction over specific points in the study, and for using fake
DISA Health Care (011) 787 1222
acupuncture points for comparison.
Many people with neuropathy believe
that acupuncture has helped them.
DISA Health Care (011) 787 1222