Naturopathy and Yoga Care for HIV and AIDS
HIV is one of the biggest challenges human evolution has faced. Ever since the first case was detected in 1970’s, the disease has become more prevalent. Initially when the disease was known, it was considered to be a synonym for death, as there is no known cure. With the advancement of Healthcare delivery systems and evolution of newer drugs (Antiretroviral Therapy), the conversion of HIV to AIDS can be considered as a fact. he problem is huge even today as new cases are added everyday and the treatment modalities are costly. Studies show that the cost of palliative care in Hospitals is as much as double the cost than Daycare centers and Home care. (1)
Due to the routes of infections, HIV does not show mercy on any social class or economic status. HIV not only brings the physical disease, but also the taboo associated with it causing tremendous stress and social stigma. Studies show that though the symptoms related to HIV reduce and CD4 count rise after ART management for a year, the level of stigma and discrimination remains high. The patients suffer from depression (2). The families are devastated. The quality of life (QoL) of HIV patients is pathetic, irrespective of their country.
HIV patients undergoing treatment have a significantly lower QoL, both mentally and physically, than their non-HIV counterparts. HIV patients in advanced stages, both by the WHO definition and by CD4 count, have a significantly lower QoL than HIV patients in the earlier stages of the disease. (3)
HIV infection has become a chronic illness with the availability of potent antiretroviral agents. Many of the agents manage HIV, however, have been associated with distressing symptoms such as nausea and vomiting that pose challenges to maintain adherence to therapy and quality of life. (4)
Also there are studies which state, that safety risks and potential drug interactions during ART are frequently ignored. (5)
Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) by HIV AIDS Patients
Worldwide there is an increasing trend of using CAM by HIV AIDS Patients to promote the Quality of Life, though decisions about using complementary and alternative medicine in conjunction with highly active antiretroviral therapy are often poorly informed. It is necessary for patients to consult health care professional before using CAM, especially that which uses drugs, herbs etc as they may cause drug reactions with ART regime. (5) A review states that there is increasing trend of use of Ayush systems for HIV in India, mostly Ayurveda and Homeopathy. The studies reported positive effects and even "cure" and reversal of HIV infection, though there are very low research evidences to state that way. (M Fritts et al; AIDS Res Ther. 2008; 5: 25.)
Role of Naturopathy
Naturopathy is a drugless, lifestyle based intervention, which can be used for HIV and AIDS care effectively for improving the Quality of Life (QoL) of the patients. The conversion of HIV to AIDS is rapid if the QoL is low. Hence providing a good QoL will help to prevent and postpone the conversion of HIV to active AIDS.
Simple treatments with the elements of Nature, Earth, Water, Air and Sunlight will help in the process of elimination and building the immunity. Mud packs on the abdomen are useful in improving the digestive system and thereby influences.
Role of Dietary Measures
Naturopathy believes in the theory of vitality and theory of toxemia. If the blood is purified by therapeutic fasting and raw juices, no infections can thrive in the body, as the toxins are eliminated from the system. Wheatgrass and other green juices have property of purifying blood. Living in a fresh, natural environment, and eating natural foods surely helpsto build the depleting immunity. These foods will help in keeping the blood alkaline. Vitamin B, C and K are important in maintaining the immune system, these are abundantly present in raw fruits, salads, vegetables and sprouts.
Role of Yoga Therapy
Yoga is an excellent tool to boost the immunity by working on the Mind Body complex. It also helps in managing the stress due to illness. HIV and poor mental health are intricately related. Once diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, many patients experience hopelessness, stigma, and socio economic marginalization.(6) Studies also show that HIV- positive men had more depression (7)
The patients practicing yoga showed significantly greater improvements in psychological health with the parameters: anxiety, depression, distress, and stress. (8)
HIV Patients also suffer from other health problems like Diabetes, Hypertension, and Cardiac Disorders. Such disorders can also be treated by using simple techniques of Yoga as Asanas, Pranayama and Meditation. A study shows that resting systolic and diastolic blood pressures improved in the yoga group compared to non Yoga. (9) The same study also states that there was no adverse effect of Yoga on Immune and virological status of the patients, which makes it safe to practice.
Exercise is important for HIV-positive people. Scientific studies found that aerobic exercise increases CD4 counts. But intensive exercise can also be immunosuppressive, hence should be avoided. (10) Yoga being a moderate aerobic exercise can surely be used effectively to improve the immune system of HIV Infected patients.
With these evidences, it can be stated that Naturopathy and Yoga, being drugless and harmless, can be used effectively to maintain and improve the quality of life of HIV and AIDS infected patients. A holistic, life style based approach will help the patients to overcome the stress and comorbid conditions like depression, anxiety, and organic diseases like Diabetes, Hypertension, etc.