As horrific as the AIDS epidemic is, it has had one silver lining: it has implanted into the awareness of the medical community and the public, the importance of the body’s immune system. Prior to the emergence of AIDS, few people were familiar with or cared about the immune system.
Now more than ever, ordinary people are interested in exploring ways to bolster their immune response and prevent the progression of AIDS, reduce the number and intensity of opportunistic infections and improve the overall state of their health. The medical community, however, has focused its AIDS resources on creating antiviral medications, which despite great hope and expectation, have not achieved the results anticipated. In fact, the leading AIDS drug, AZT, has been found to prolong the lives of people with AIDS by only seven or eight months. But due to its side effects, the quality of life during this time is not high.
What is yet to be understood by the medical community, is that they need to direct more attention and research toward ways to augment immune response, rather than ways to inhibit viral replication. By strengthening a person’s own defenses, the body is best enabled to defend itself.
Homoeopathy is one way to do this. Although no therapy can or will help every HIV+ person or everyone with AIDS, homoeopathy is beginning to develop a reputation for helping people at varying stages of this disease. To understand what homoeopathy has to offer, it is necessary to learn something about a different approach to infectious disease than simply attacking a pathogen.
Louis Pasteur, who initially suggested that bacteria cause disease, later realized that bacteria might not necessarily be the “cause” of disease as much as the “results” of disease. Like Claude Bernard, the father of experimental physiology, Pasteur came to realize that the susceptibility of the individual, the “host resistance,” was a greater determinant of the development of disease than the infective agent itself.
Despite the later recanting by Pasteur, he had already set in motion a medical mindset that focused entirely on eliminating pathogens and that ignored exploring ways to augment immune and defense response. Physicians and scientists are finally realizing the limitations and problems inherent in using antibiotics as antimicrobial agents, and antiviral drugs will inevitably suffer a similar fate. While physicians tend to know these limitations both rationally and intuitively, they ignore them in their clinical practice, in part because they don’t know what else to do, and in part, because their biomedical paradigm limits their vision of alternatives to antimicrobial therapy.
As increasing numbers of physicians learn about homoeopathic medicine, they will be exposed to viable alternative treatments, which can play an integral role in the care and treatment of people with HIV and AIDS. A recent survey of physicians in the Netherlands verified this possibility. The survey showed that 50% of Dutch physicians instigated and supported the use of homoeopathic and natural therapies in the treatment of people with AIDS.
Prevention of AIDS–
The best and most definite way to prevent AIDS is to avoid exchanging bodily fluids with people who are HIV+. Exposure to these bodily fluids most commonly occurs through sexual activity, sharing needles, or receiving blood transfusions. However, just because an individual is exposed to a person with HIV does not necessarily mean that the individual will get the virus.
The various factors that influence whether exposure leads to infection and whether infection leads to disease remain unknown. However, as with many infectious conditions, a stronger immune system reduces the chances of getting the disease, or at least decreases the chances of complications from the infection. It therefore seems prudent to avoid the factors that inhibit immune response and to utilize those that augment it. The factors that inhibit immune response include an unhealthy lifestyle (i.e., smoking, poor diet, significant stress, sedentary habits) and the use of therapeutic and recreational drugs, while those that augment immune response tend to be a healthy lifestyle and utilizing natural therapeutics, including homoeopathic medicines.
While the precise mechanism of action that leads to AIDS is not known, a new and significant study suggests that homoeopathic medicines may have a dramatic effect on some people with HIV+. A study performed by a government research center in India with 129 asymptomatic HIV+ patients (120 male and 9 female) showed that during homoeopathic treatment over a period of 3 to 16 months, 11 patients changed from HIV+ to HIV-. No conventional drugs of any type were prescribed to these patients.
Some researchers conducted a study on the immunological status of 34 HIV+ patients. After six months of individualized homoeopathic treatment, 23 (67%) of the 34 subjects’ immune profiles improved. Thirteen patients experienced a 0-10% increase in CD4 lymphocytes (a higher number of CD4 lymphocytes suggests a stronger immune response) and 10 patients experienced a greater than 10% increase. Because there is a tendency for people with HIV to have continually decreasing CD4 lymphocytes, this study suggests that homoeopathic medicines provided a benefit to the subjects.
A San Francisco Bay Area homoeopath, Lawrence Badgley, MD, reported on a six-month study of 36 patients with AIDS whom he treated with homoeopathic and other natural medicines. He observed a 13% increase in T4 helper cells and an average weight gain of two pounds, which is rarely experienced under conventional medical treatment.
Treatment of Acute Illnesses During AIDS–
Because of the seriousness of this disease, the treatment of people with HIV requires professional health care, even when their ailments are seemingly minor. Ideally, they should receive treatment from an expert homeopath, but otherwise the best care is one that integrates homoeopathic treatment with appropriate medical diagnosis and, in emergencies, with appropriate medical treatment.
People with AIDS are prone to opportunistic infections due to their immune-deficient state, ranging from fungal infections in the mouth to respiratory infections. The use of conventional drugs can provide valuable temporary relief. However, occasional or repeated use of these drugs takes its own toll on their health and immune system, and thus provides short-term relief but longer-term immune complications. Safer therapies that are not as physiologically disruptive as conventional drugs are necessary for the long-term improvement of people with AIDS. Homoeopathic medicines can play an important role in the treatment of these opportunistic infections.
One of the advantages of using homoeopathy in treating people with AIDS is that they tend to get various unusual symptoms, diseases, and syndromes, which evade immediate diagnosis. A homoeopath, however, can prescribe a remedy before a definitive conventional diagnosis is made. Because homoeopathic medicines are prescribed based on a person’s unique pattern of symptoms, a conventional diagnosis is not an immediate necessity for a curative remedy to be prescribed.
Treatment of Patient with AIDS–
Despite the seemingly positive results that homoeopathic medicines provide for people who are HIV+, including those with early onset of AIDS, and those with non-extreme cases of AIDS, most homoeopaths do not observe significant improvement in treating people who have advanced stages of AIDS. That said, it should also be noted that there are exceptions to this general rule, and numerous homoeopaths find that select patients with advanced stages of AIDS experience dramatic improvement in their quality of life.
The experience of Dr. Bill Gray, a homoeopath in Davis, California, is among these. He has had 33 AIDS patients, only three of whom have survived. The remaining three patients were the only ones who insisted on avoiding AZT and DDI (another popular AIDS drug). Dr. Gray has also had 30 HIV+ patients for an average of five years, only one of whom developed AIDS. Although this one patient has suffered from two bouts of pneumocystis pneumonia, he is actually doing quite well under homoeopathic treatment.
Dr. Gray and most homoeopaths utilize classical homeopathy in the treatment of people with AIDS, using a single remedy prescribed individually for the unique pattern of symptoms experienced by the patient. This highly individualized treatment generally includes the use of homoeopathic medicines which are highly potentized (usually higher than the 200th potency).
Because of the urgency of some AIDS patients’ situations, some homoeopaths experiment with new homoeopathic remedies and with non-classical approaches to homoeopathy. For instance, Dr. Elliot Blackman, an osteopathic physician in San Francisco, occasionally prescribes CYCLOSPORIN in homoeopathic doses as an intercurrent medicine (an intercurrent medicine is one that is prescribed after another medicine which is individually determined). In conventional doses, Cyclosporin is an immuno-suppressant drug, thus suggesting that it can be effective in homoeopathic doses for treating people who have an immuno-suppressed condition (this prescription is not “classical homoeopathy” because each immuno-suppressant drug creates its own unique pattern of symptoms, and the classical use of this drug would be more individualized).
Dr. Alan Levine, a San Francisco physician who integrates homoeopathic and other natural medicines with occasional prescription of conventional drugs, has one patient who was so sick with AIDS that he developed dementia, a state of mental deterioration that tends to occur in late stages of AIDS. This patient refused all conventional drugs from Dr. Levine and from all other physicians. After using homoeopathic medicines, acupuncture, and herbs, the patient is now very healthy, has no signs of dementia, and has not had a single opportunistic infection in several years.
This case is mentioned, because despite the small chances of surviving late stages of AIDS and despite the generally accepted experience that dementia represents an irreversible neurological change, it is inspiring to know that significant and even substantial improvement is sometimes possible.
It should be noted that people with AIDS occasionally develop a fever shortly after taking the correct homoeopathic medicine. This fever is considered a beneficial response of the body to the remedy and should not be suppressed. Physiologists recognize the therapeutic value of fever as a response to infection, and homoeopathic medicine seems to be one way to augment this healing response.
Homoeopathic Treatment of Infectious Diseases and Immunological Disorders–
In order to fully appreciate the potential of homoeopathic medicine in the treatment of AIDS, it is useful to get some historical perspective as well as to investigate what homoeopathy has to offer in the treatment of viral and immunological disorders.
Homoeopathy has an impressive history of successes in treating infectious disease, including many of the most serious and potentially fatal infectious diseases known to humanity. The significant successes of homoeopathic treatment of the infectious diseases that raged during the 1800s in the United States and Europe created tremendous support for this natural therapy. Death rates in homoeopathic hospitals from cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, scarlet fever, and pneumonia were commonly one half to as little as one eighth those in conventional medical hospitals. Besides hospitals, prisons and insane asylums that employed physicians who specialized in homoeopathy experienced a similar success rate compared to other institutions under the care of conventional physicians.
Just as homoeopathy became known in the 19th century for its successful treatment of infectious diseases of that era, based on growing clinical and laboratory evidence, it is likely that it will become known in this era for its results in treating contemporary viral infections. Although homoeopathic medicines are not considered to have traditional antiviral action, their ability to augment the body’s own defenses suggests that they have antiviral effects. One study on chicken embryo viruses showed that eight of ten homoeopathic medicines tested inhibited the growth of the viruses by 50 to 100%. A similar study done by the same researchers did find, however, that none of the four homoeopathic medicines tested for their effects on a mouse virus had any effect. Taken together, these studies suggest that homoeopathic medicines can have significant antiviral effects, but it is necessary to find the individualized remedy for each situation.
Despite this preliminary work, it is conjectured that homoeopathic medicines do not have traditional antiviral effects but have immunomodulatory effects (“immunomodulatory effects” refers to a tonification of the body’s immune system i.e. an ability to augment immune response when it needs to be stimulated and to depress an already over-stimulated immune system). One laboratory study showed that the homoeopathic medicine SILICEA had dramatic effects on stimulating macrophages, an important part of the body’s immune system, by 55.5% to 67.5%. On the other hand, another clinical trial showed the efficacy of individualized homoeopathic medicines on the treatment of people with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, which occur when a person’s immune system is overly active, leading the body to attack itself. This study suggests that homoeopathic medicines decreased the overly active immune system.
The history of homoeopathic successes in treating infectious disease epidemics, the research supporting the immunemodulatory effects of homoeopathic medicines, and the clinical research on HIV+ patients indicating beneficial response to homoeopathic medicines, should command attention by physicians, scientists, and public health officials. Despite the evidence, it is both surprising and depressing that homoeopathic medicine has been consistently ignored as a competent part of a comprehensive program in treating AIDS patients.
Homoeopathy is not the only alternative that is being ignored by the frontier AIDS organizations. Even though a large number of people with AIDS, especially long-term survivors, are taking one or more alternative treatments, there is hardly any data recorded on their use or success. Until AIDS activists, concerned lay people, and open-minded health professionals start insisting that research on alternatives be performed, the potentially valuable therapies will continue to be ignored, and the AIDS epidemic will continue to devastate our society. When these alternative therapies are integrated within a comprehensive program, which includes public health measures that seek to prevent infection, the AIDS epidemic will finally begin to recede.
B. Sc., B. H. M. S., D.I. Hom (London)
M. LMHI (Geneva), Dip. Yoga (B.H.U.)
Lecturer-Dept. of Naturopathy Sciences & Yoga
Mahatma Gandhi Kahsi Vidyapeeth, Varanasi