For the last four years I do volunteer as an acupuncturist at an AIDS project. It is a very rewarding experience for me and my patients, and I hope to continue as long as possible.
After numerous people asked me what do I do there and how can acupuncture help my patients I decided to put it all in writing. This writing is based on my personal experience and does not intend to be a scientific paper. All my patients are HIV positive who are on the medications and there viral load is controlled.
So, how can acupuncture help?
When a newly diagnosed person reaches out for my help they usually present with symptoms from two main categories. The physical, were there body is adjusting to the side effects of the medications and the emotional. The main physical symptoms at this stage are digestive complaints, mostly with diarrhea, and often accompanied with headaches and fatigue. Fear and worry are dominant, and typically manifest as stress, anxiety, difficulty to sleep and often as depression.
Acupuncture releases endorphins and calms the mind but also settles the digestion and strengthens the digestive system to better cope with the harsh chemicals.
Patients who are HIV positive for a long time present with different complaints. The Stomach is less irritated, but years of strong medicine use cause dryness and constipation. Neuropathies start to appear and range from numbness and tingling of hands and feet to painful cramps radiating up to knees and elbows. Most of my patients respond very favorably to acupuncture treatments for neuropathies, with significant relief and slowdown of progression. It is important to note that the neuropathies are typical manifestation of the viral damage to the nerves as well as side effect of the HIV medications and therefore cannot be “cured” but rather curbed and slowed down.
Depressions and anxiety are common with insomnia and nightmares. Fear is usually replaced with general anger and frustration.
Strengthening the immune system and stimulation of bone marrow are also integrated.
Furthermore, every patient is an individual with his/her personal presentation of health issues. Because acupuncture is a holistic form of medicine, all the health concerns are addressed. It does not have to be related to the HIV. Seasonal allergies, cold and flues, injuries and other health problems are all considered together and treatment is tailored to much the representations of the day.