AIDS and HIV
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a set of symptoms and infections resulting from the damage to the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Anti-HIV (also called antiretroviral) medications are used to control the reproduction of the virus and to slow or halt the progression of HIV-related disease.
When used in combinations, these medications are termed Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART). HAART combines three or more anti-HIV medications in a daily regimen, sometimes referred to as a "cocktail". Anti-HIV medications do not cure HIV infection and individuals taking these medications can still transmit HIV to others.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)
Various forms of alternative medicine have been used to treat symptoms or alter the course of the disease. Acupuncture has been used to alleviate some symptoms, such peripheral neuropathy, but cannot cure the HIV infection. Several randomized clinical trials testing the effect of herbal medicines have shown that there is no evidence that these herbs have any effect on the progression of the disease, but may instead produce serious side-effects.
Some data suggest that multivitamin and mineral supplements might reduce HIV disease progression in adults, although there is no conclusive evidence on if they reduce mortality among people with good nutritional status. Vitamin A supplementation in children probably has some benefit. Daily doses of selenium can suppress HIV viral burden with an associated improvement of the CD4 count. Selenium can be used as an adjunct therapy to standard antiviral treatments, but cannot itself reduce mortality and morbidity.
Current studies indicate that that alternative medicine therapies have little effect on the mortality or morbidity of the disease, but may improve the quality of life of individuals afflicted with AIDS. The psychological benefits of these therapies are the most important use.