The human immunodeficiency virus, better known as HIV, is a disease that damages the immune system. The immune system continually degrades until it is unable to fight off even the weakest invaders. HIV is the predecessor to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), a potentially life-threatening condition. Millions of people around the world are affected by HIV/AIDS. Around 33.4 million people worldwide were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in 2008. This number included 2.1 million children below the age of 15.
Although a cure is not yet available, treatments can prevent HIV from turning into AIDS for many years. There are guidelines people can follow to reduce their chances of infection and to stave off progression of the disease, as well as protect themselves from additional complications that result from AIDS development.
Origin of HIV and AIDS
Today HIV is understood to be a sexually transmitted disease, but the origin of HIV traces its roots back to a diet-related cause. According to the Mayo Clinic, experts theorize that a virus like HIV was first transmitted to people from chimps and monkeys in Africa that had been hunted, butchered and cooked for food. When people came into contact with the blood of these infected animals the virus then entered the humans and infected them. The animal virus transformed into HIV in the peoples’ bodies.
Cases of AIDS first appeared in North America in the 1980s. However, blood samples indicate that the virus first infected people in the United States in the late 1970s. Originally, HIV/AIDS was mainly found in homosexual males, though the virus is just as easily spread through sexual activities involving heterosexual people. At least one type of HIV is known to spread more easily through sexual activities between heterosexuals in Africa.
Since the first known cases of HIV/AIDS appeared in the ’80s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recorded over 1.1 million cases of AIDS in the United States through 2008. Almost 600,000 fatalities from AIDS were reported to the CDC through 2007.
In 1995, AIDS was the number one cause of death in the U.S. for people between 25 and 44 years of age. Today, AIDS is sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. for this age group. According to the World Health Organization, over 25 million people throughout the world have died because of AIDS. Many more people are HIV positive, but are not at risk of death until the disease becomes AIDS.
Although doctors first identified AIDS in the U.S. in 1981, it was not until 1984 that the link between HIV and AIDS was discovered. The term AIDS was coined in 1982 before there was knowledge of HIV. AIDS was classified as a “syndrome” instead of a virus because it presented in people as group of symptoms and complications. Doctors observed that people with AIDS were prone to cancers and infections that people with healthy immune systems did not develop. It was not until 1993 that the most definitive method for AIDS diagnosis, a CD4 cell count below 200, was added to the AIDS definition.
Around 40,000 people are infected with HIV annually in the U.S. Men are more likely than women to become infected. Approximately 70 percent of new cases of HIV are found in men while only 30 percent are among women. The cause behind infections is largely from sexual contact, but as many as 25 percent of new infections are due to drug injections using shared needles. Thirty percent of cases arise from sexual activity between heterosexual couples. Around 40 percent of infections occur during sex between males.
Although when first discovered AIDS was not known to be linked to HIV, today many people mistakenly believe they are the same condition. HIV is the condition that leads to AIDS. AIDS is a life-threatening condition whereas HIV is merely a chronic virus. People who are HIV-positive may live decades before they develop AIDS and their lives become threatened.
Basic information on HIV/AIDS and its history:
Symptoms of HIV/AIDS
HIV and AIDS cause a variety of symptoms. The specific symptoms people experience can be different depending on what phase of the condition they are in.
People in the primary infection stage often develop flu-like symptoms, typically in the first month or two. People in this beginning stage of HIV may experience symptoms, such as:
- Genital ulcers
- Joint pain
- Mouth ulcers
- Night sweats
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph glands
Over the next eight to 10 years or so the disease progresses and people’s immune systems become more compromised. During this time it is common for people to develop chronic symptoms or mild infections. People may experience symptoms related to these issues, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
When HIV progresses to AIDS people become susceptible to opportunist infections that their immune systems would have been able to handle before the disease progressed. These infections lead to significant symptoms, such as:
- Change in taste
- Chills accompanied by shaking
- Chronic diarrhea
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic fever above 100 degrees Fahrenheit
- Difficultly swallowing
- Distorted vision
- Loose teeth
- Night sweats with severe perspiration
- Persistent white spots or unusual lesions of the mouth or tongue
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained Weight loss
Significant Differences Between HIV and AIDS
HIV is a serious virus that unlike the flu or the common cold does not go away in a short period of time. People with HIV have the virus forever. HIV is an immunodeficiency virus that damages the immune system. It destroys the CD4 lymphocytes, also called T cells or helper T cells, that the body needs to combat certain infections and cancers. Overtime, HIV kills enough CD4 immune cells to develop into AIDS. Even though AIDS comes from HIV the conditions do have significant differences in terms of symptoms, risks and treatments.
When a person has HIV, their immune system may be weaker than that of a healthy person. It is possible for an HIV positive person to develop conditions like tuberculosis or pneumonia just as a healthy person can get these diseases. A person with HIV can usually still fight off these conditions. Depending upon how far the disease has progressed, the immune system in a person with HIV still functions to some degree.
However, an immune system in a person with AIDS has failed completely, leaving them significantly more vulnerable to any type of infection. Even basic diseases that healthy people fight off quickly can make someone with AIDS very sick.
Some of the main points about HIV include:
- HIV attacks humans exclusively
- HIV produces a immune system deficiency, meaning the immune system cannot function properly
- HIV cannot reproduce by itself
- HIV uses the human cell system to reproduce
The AIDS disease has some significant differences too, such as:
- AIDS is acquired by external means, unlike HIV which is transmitted genetically
- AIDS may cause people to experience a wide range of opportunistic infections
- AIDS destroys the immune system due to the presence of HIV
When someone comes into contact with an infected person HIV enters the person’s body through blood, sexual contact or the mucous membrane, which are the tissues that line the body’s cavities and canals. AIDS is not transmitted person-to-person. It can only develop from HIV.
Causes of HIV/AIDS
The primary cause of HIV is contact with the virus from another person. Sharing bodily fluids with affected persons, usually through sexual contact, puts one at risk for contracting HIV. HIV is a sexually transmitted disease, but it can be spread by other ways.
When HIV/AIDS was first discovered people did not understood what caused the infection to spread. Most people are now aware that there are only limited ways for the virus to transmit from one person to another, yet some myths still exist. Physical contact such as shaking hands or hugging does not cause the spread HIV/AIDS. The virus is not airborne nor can it be transmitted through water or bug bites.
Sexual Contact and HIV
Sexual contact with an infected person is the main cause of HIV transmission. The virus can be transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sex between people of any sexual orientation, race, gender or age. A person must have semen, vaginal secretions or blood from an HIV-positive individual enter their body for infection to be possible. Small tears in the vagina or rectum may occur during sex and create openings for HIV infection. The virus can also enter through the mucosal linings of the penis, rectum or vulva. Simply hugging or kissing an infected person does not cause HIV/AIDS.
However, the virus can enter the mouth through mouth sores during oral sex and possibly the upper gastrointestinal tract, but the virus cannot be carried and transmitted through saliva. Infection through the mouth is considered rare but possible.
Additional Causes of HIV/AIDS
Sexual activity is not the only way people may become infected with HIV/AIDS. Additional causes include:
Sharing needles – Sharing needles and syringes can lead to HIV/AIDS because these items are contaminated by blood from an infected user. HIV/AIDS as well as other infectious diseases like hepatitis can occur when sharing intravenous drug paraphernalia.
Blood Transfusions and Organ Transplants – HIV is transmittable through blood transfusions and organ transplants. The risk in the U.S. is very small due to improved screening procedures performed in blood banks and hospitals. Screening the blood can identify HIV antibodies before they get the chance to enter the bodies of patients. Infected organs and blood are safely exposed of and not given to patients.
Pregnancy – Pregnant women with HIV/AIDS can give their unborn children the virus. Treatment during pregnancy lowers the risk of infection to the babies. Around 25 percent of women in the U.S. who are infected with HIV and who are not taking antiretroviral therapy medications pass the virus to their children. People who take antiretroviral drugs combined with other drug regimens are significantly less likely to give the virus to their babies. Mothers with HIV can also infect their babies during childbirth and breastfeeding.
Risk Factors for HIV/AIDS
Certain factors make a person more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection. Damage to the lining of the vagina, penis, rectum and mouth more easily permit transmission of the virus. Other sexually transmitted diseases that cause inflammation and ulcers may lead to this damage. People with HPV, chlamydia, genital herpes and gonorrhea are more vulnerable to HIV infection.
The more sexual partners a person has the greater their risk of infection. Having unprotected sex also increases the risk. Anal sex is overall riskier than vaginal sex for HIV infection. However, men who are uncircumcised are more likely to become infected through vaginal sex than circumcised males.
People who live in developing countries are at a much greater risk of developing HIV/AIDS. Infected women in some countries may not have access to medications that prevent transmission of the virus to unborn children. Although some success in decreasing the transmission of HIV from pregnant women to their children is being shown from taking simple and inexpensive antiviral drugs, taking these medicines to stop the transmission from occurring during childbirth does nothing to protect newborns who are breastfeeding. Therefore, breastfeeding is at risk of becoming the most common method for HIV infection in infants in developing countries that have access to antiviral drugs.
People who use intravenous drugs are also at a greater risk for HIV. These people are more likely to share needles and syringes, which exposes them to small amounts of blood from other people who might be HIV positive. Sharing needles used for tattoos also increases the risk of HIV infection.
African-Americans are at a higher risk for HIV. Nearly 50 percent of people who become infected annually are African-American.
Other factors can also increase people’s risk of HIV/AIDs, such as:
- Engaging in sexual activities for money or drugs
- Engaging in sexual activities with men who have sex with men
- Being infected with other infectious diseases, such as hepatitis or tuberculosis
- Having received a blood transfusion before 1985
Diagnosis for HIV/AIDS
Although there is no one test for diagnosing AIDS doctors do have ways to test for HIV. Doctors can check blood or saliva for antibodies that the body produces in the second stage of HIV.
Two tests that detect antibodies are the HIV Western blot and the HIV ELISA. Both of these tests reveal if a person has HIV antibodies, but not how much of the virus is in the bloodstream. More tests are needed to determine the progression of the condition.
Unfortunately, these tests do not reveal the presence of HIV if a person is still in the infection stage because the immune system generally takes 12 weeks to make the HIV antibodies. This is why even people whose tests come back negative are told to get tested again in three months. However, some people’s immune systems can take six months to make the antibodies so even getting retested after three months is not necessarily conclusive.
A newer type of HIV test detects a protein created by HIV immediately following infection. This protein is called the HIV antigen. The new HIV text can determine if a person has HIV within days of the initial infection.
Many people may not notice signs of infection for a long time. Since people with HIV still have a somewhat functional immune system, especially in the early stages, they may not have the symptoms and frequent infections that act as clues to the virus’ presence. Many people are not made aware of their infection until they are in the late stages of HIV, when there is not much in the way of treatment to slow the progression to AIDS.
Unlike with AIDS, an early detection of HIV can make a significant difference in the length and quality of life of an infected individual. Antiretroviral therapy and other anti-HIV drugs if given early on can slow the development of HIV into AIDS enough that some people may still live out a normal life expectancy. There are treatments that can help people with AIDS, but none that can give people a long life like people with HIV may experience with proper treatment.
A healthy person has around 800 to 1,200 CD4 cells per cubic millimeter in their blood. Once a person becomes infected with HIV, their CD4 cell count lowers as the cells are destroyed. According to the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a person diagnosed with AIDS has less than 200 CD4 cells. People may also be diagnosed with AIDS if they have AIDS-defining complications, such as:
- Candidal esophagitis
- Cervical cancer
- Herpes simplex
- HIV-associated dementia
- Kaposi sarcoma
- Memory impairment
- Mycobacterial infection
- Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia
- Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia
- Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy
- Wasting syndrome
Stages of HIV/AIDS
The stages of HIV are characterized by how far the virus has progressed. Some people may not even realize they have HIV until it has progressed to the second or third stage. In some instances, people do not become aware of their infection until they develop AIDS. Up until that point they may simply think that they were merely getting sick more often, possibly due to stress, environmental changes or aging.
HIV progresses through several stages, unlike AIDS which has only one stage. When HIV first enters and infects a person’s body, it attacks the CD4 cells. An uninfected person with a healthy immune system has many CD4 cells. A cubic millimeter of blood in most people contains between 500 to 1,800 CD4 cells. This number generally drops the longer a person has HIV.
During stage one of HIV the virus gets into the immune cell and begins to replicate itself before the immune system can respond. This stage is called the infection stage. People may experience flu-like symptoms during this stage, though some may not have any symptoms. A person is still considered HIV negative during the infection stage.
Stage two, known as the response stage, is when the immune system begins to fight back against the invading virus. The body produces antibodies to combat HIV. The process is called seroconversion. Once seroconversion begins a person becomes HIV positive. Some people may not present any symptoms during this stage, which is called asymptomatic infection. However, HIV is still in the body and is damaging the CD4 cells even if there are no external signs.
The third stage is the symptoms stage. When people begin to develop HIV symptoms, such as certain infections, they are said to be in the symptoms stage. How long it takes for a person to enter this stage depends on many factors, including their overall health and their treatment program.
AIDS is the condition that occurs when HIV progresses past the symptoms stage. The virus weakens people’s immune systems until they develop AIDS. HIV affects the immune system by killing CD4 cells, a type of white blood cell that plays a significant role in combating disease. The death of these cells makes the immune system weaker and less efficient. HIV causes AIDS by lowering the number of the CD4 cells in the body and inhibiting their disease-fighting functions in the body.
The poorly functioning immune system leaves people with AIDS vulnerable to infection. AIDS patients frequently develop infections of the eyes, brain, intestinal tract, lungs and other organs. They are also at greater risk for gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, cancers and neurologic conditions. Medicines may help preserve CD4 cells and immune function, delaying the development of HIV into AIDS for years.
Doctors look at various criteria including CD4 cell count, symptoms and infections before saying that a person has progressed from the HIV symptoms stage to AIDS. People are said to have AIDS once they meet some, not necessarily all, of the criteria. AIDS is not determined based on a single test. However, once a person’s CD4 count goes below 200 a person is said to have AIDS. Having less than 200 cells indicates that a person’s immune system is significantly weakened. Even if the count increases later on, a person does not get downgraded from AIDS back to HIV positive.
It may take anywhere from two to 10 or 15 years for HIV to progress into AIDS. The length of time it takes for the progression from stage three to the AIDS is unique to every individual. A person’s genetic makeup is an important factor, as are their age and habits.
Factors that contribute to a shorter time between HIV infection and AIDS development include:
- High stress
- Infection with multiple types of HIV
- Older age
- Poor nutrition
Factors that contribute to a longer time between HIV infection and AIDS development include:
- Adhering closely to doctors’ treatment recommendations
- Healthy eating
- Taking care of oneself
People do have a large amount of control over how long it takes for their infection to develop into AIDS.
Treatments for HIV/AIDS
Current medications can slow the progression of HIV and AIDS and help treat symptoms. The main type of HIV medicines that slow progression are called antiretroviral medicine. They are called this because HIV is a retrovirus. Antiretroviral medications increase life expectancy, extending the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in developed countries. Without them, death normally occurs within one year. In areas where these treatments are not available, HIV/AIDS is an epidemic that kills numerous people.
Available treatments can stop HIV from developing into AIDS for decades. Some people can live out a normal life expectancy as someone without the virus through using modern treatments.
The number of deaths in most developed countries is significantly lower than it once was because of the treatment advances. Unfortunately, in parts of Asia, Haiti and Africa where treatments are not widely available, HIV/AIDs causes huge numbers of deaths each year.
The primary goal of HIV treatment is to support the immune system by keeping levels of the virus low. Some treatments accomplish this by preventing the virus from entering its genetic material into the cells of the immune system, which it needs to do to replicate itself. Other treatments interfere with proteins that the virus needs for replication. A person’s overall health, virus levels and how well their immune system functions are key factors in determining the type of treatment doctors recommend.
The most popular treatment method for HIV is highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). This therapy combines a minimum of three anti-HIV drugs that work to decrease the virus levels in the blood, boost immune system function and slow HIV’s progression. Each of the drugs serve different purposes that together provide a potent treatment for HIV.
Another benefit of using several drugs is that HIV can become resistant to drugs when fewer medications are used or the doses are too low. Taking multiple drugs consistently and at the correct times ensures that they work as effectively as possible.
Classes of Medications for HIV
Anti-HIV medications are divided into different classes. Typically, doctors combine medications from at least two classes. This helps to avoid the creation of HIV strains that are immune to one class of anti-HIV drug. The classes of medications for HIV include:
- Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs) – NRTIs work by stopping the proteins that HIV use to copy itself. The NRTIs are faulty versions of the building blocks that make up these proteins. NRTI medications include abacavir (Ziagen), emtricitabine, tenofovir (Truvada), zidovudine (Combivir) and lamivudine.
- Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs) – NNRTIs work against HIV by disabling proteins that the virus needs to copy itself. NNRTIs include nevirapine (Viramune), efavirenz (Sustiva) and etravirine (Intelence).
- Entry Inhibitors – Entry inhibitors, also called fusion inhibitors, prevent the virus from accessing the CD4 cells of the immune system. Enfuvirtide (Fuzeon) and maraviroc (Selzentry) are examples of entry inhibitor medications.
- Integrase Inhibitors – Integrase inhibitors are beneficial for HIV patients because they disable a protein called integrase that HIV utilizes when it inserts its genetic materials in immune cells. Raltegravir (Isentress) is an example of an integrase inhibitor.
- Protease Inhibitors – Protease inhibitors work similarly to integrase inhibitors. However, instead of disabling integrase, protease inhibitors disable the protein called protease. Like integrase, protease is a protein that the virus uses to produce copies of itself. Protease inhibitors include medications such as atazanavir (Reyataz), fosamprenavir (Lexiva), darunavir (Prezista) and ritonavir (Norvir).
For more information about how the virus enters cells and reproduces, plus how antiretroviral medications work to prevent this process, watch this video.
Treatment Guidelines for HIV
HIV treatment should begin under certain circumstances. Doctors generally recommend starting treatment when:
- Patients’ CD4 counts drop below 500
- Patients have severe symptoms
- Patients become pregnant
- Patients develop HIV-related kidney disease
- Patients receive hepatitis B treatment
Every few months after treatment begins, doctors measure their patients’ responses to the treatment. This includes checking CD4 levels and levels of the virus. The purpose of the treatment is to reduce the levels of the virus so that it is undetectable. If the levels of HIV are undetectable it does not mean that the virus is cured, only significantly subdued.
HIV Treatment Side Effects
HIV treatment is intense and may result in side effects, such as:
- Weak bones
- Bone death
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heart rate
After HIV becomes AIDS, patients are especially vulnerable to infections. People with AIDS are treated with antiviral, antifungal and antibiotic medications to combat opportunities for infection.
People with AIDS may need additional treatments if they develop wasting syndrome. Wasting syndrome is a condition that occurs when AIDS patients lose 10 percent of more of their body weight. Most of the body weight lost is typically muscle, not body fat. Wasting syndrome makes someone even more vulnerable to infection and can cause symptoms such as weakness, fever and chronic diarrhea. The risk of wasting syndrome has lessened due to HAART treatments for HIV, but it is still a risk for AIDS patients. Treatments are given based on the cause of weight loss. These treatments may include appetite stimulants to encourage people to eat more as well as growth hormones and anabolic steroids.
There are also lifestyle modifications people with AIDS need to take to protect themselves from infection to the best of their ability. Lifestyle remedies that can improve health and improve immune function for HIV/AIDS include:
- Eat a Balanced Diet – Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, lean protein and whole grains. A diet must include a range of healthy foods to provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals, plus fiber and fluids. Avoid spicy and processed foods.
- Avoid Foods That Risk Infection – Unpasteurized dairy products, raw seafood and raw eggs may contain food-borne illnesses.
- Cook Meat Thoroughly – Partially cooked meat may contain bacteria that can make people sick. Meat should be cooked until there is no trace of pink.
- Prepare Food Cautiously – People with AIDS and their caregivers must take extra precaution not only in cooking meat thoroughly, but in all food preparation to lessen the chance of infection. Hands should always be washed before touching food. Organic vegetables are preferred, but even then it is best if they are cooked or peeled.
- Protect Against Infections – An infection that might make a healthy person slightly ill could kill a person with AIDS. Therefore, people with AIDS must do everything possible to avoid risk of contamination from other people. Washing hands frequently helps prevent the spread of infection. Avoiding sharing personal items like razors is helpful as well. People with AIDS should always wear rubber gloves when handling bodily fluids or wastes. It is even necessary to avoid sick people, including family members.
- Get Vaccinated – Vaccinations can prevent infections like influenza that people with HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to. Immunizations given to people with compromised immune systems due to HIV/AIDS should not be give vaccines with live viruses.
- Be Wary of Cats and Reptiles – Some reptiles carry salmonella that could make people with HIV/AIDS sick. Exposure to cat feces may lead to toxoplasmosis, which is an infection caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. It is likely best that people with AIDS do not have these pets, but at the very least they should not be responsible for cleaning up waste matter from these animals.
- Exercise – Physical activity helps a person with AIDS remain strong and independent for as long as possible. Exercise also improves circulation and can relieve joint stiffness commonly associated with AIDS in people who are less active. For people in the later stages of the condition who spend a lot of time in bed exercises that can be done lying down are still an option.
- Prevent Bed Sores – People who lie in the same position for prolonged periods of time can develop bed sores and stiff joints. They are also at a greater risk for pneumonia. Placing soft material like a foam mattress on a bed along with wrinkle-free sheets helps to keep the skin of a bedridden AIDS patient healthy. Changing position helps to prevent bed sores, though some people may need a caregiver’s assistance to move in bed.
Alternative Treatment for HIV/AIDS
Alternative medicine can complement conventional HIV/AIDS treatment, helping to relieve symptoms and increase quality of life. Examples of alternative therapies include:
- Breathing exercises
- Herbal remedies
These therapies may work to reduce stress, promote relaxation, elevate mood, build physical strength and promote wellness from a holistic perspective. Holistic medicine takes into consideration patients’ stress levels, diets and overall health when designing complementary treatment programs.
Many patients report positive experiences and benefits of alternative medicine, but more evidence is needed to determine how much these treatments help people with HIV/AIDS, if at all.
Practicing mindfulness meditation is a low-cost and effective alternative treatment option that may extend the lives of people with HIV/AIDS. Mindfulness meditation involves learning to be in the moment. Practitioners focus on being more open and refraining from thinking about the past or future. Although research has already shown the benefits of mindfulness meditation for relaxation and overall health, recent research demonstrates that this type of meditation reduces stress and prevents the decline of CD4 T cells in people with HIV suffering from stress. Preventing the decline of these immune cells slows the progression of HIV.
Stress increases the speed at which CD4 immune cells decline, which weakens the immune system and brings people with HIV closer to an AIDS diagnosis. Patients who practice this type of meditation have demonstrated equal amounts of CD4 immune cells as they before they began meditating. The more frequently people meditate in studies, the higher their CD4 cell counts at each study’s end.
Bob Beck Protocol
The Bob Beck Protocol is an alternative treatment program that involves targeted electrical currents. The protocol was originally developed to combat HIV/AIDS in the ’90s, but it is also used as an alternative cancer treatment. The Bob Beck Protocol is an electromedicine treatment that boosts the immune system by inhibiting a virus’ ability to enter cells and multiply. It does this by sending a small electric current into the body. If the virus cannot infect cells and use them to multiply, it cannot spread throughout the body. Instead, the body can excrete the disable virus cells.
The Bob Beck Protocol utilizes an electromedicine machine called a Blood Electrifier or Blood Purifier. The machine sends out a 4 hertz alternating electric current. The current kills bacteria and fungi while also deactivating viruses.
When using this protocol, Dr. Bob Beck discovered that sometimes the HIV/AIDS virus returned. He theorized that not all of the virus circulates in the blood. Instead, some microbes hide out in the body. Microbes are tiny organisms that can cause disease in people, animals and plants. To get the microbes moving, Dr. Beck developed a machine called a Magnetic Pulser. Once the Magnetic Pulser got microbes to circulate, the Blood Purifier could deactivate them so they could not infect healthy cells.
Another part of the Bob Beck Protocol involves colloidal silver, a supplement that kills microbes. The final part of the protocol is using ozonated water for detoxification. This also destroys microbes and cancer cells. By getting rid of the microbes the immune system can create more neuropeptides, which are molecules that fight invaders like viruses.
To create the ideal environment in patients’ bodies so the Bob Beck Protocol can work, the program recommends following an alkaline diet. Foods like sodas, meat, sugar and white flour are acidic. These foods create an environment that microbes can thrive in.
Instead, the Bob Beck Protocol recommends eating highly alkaline foods while avoiding acidic foods and foods that support microbe growth. Foods to avoid when using this protocol include:
- Dairy products
- Polyunsaturated oils
- Refined flour
- Refined sugar
The Bob Beck Protocol recommends eating high amounts of fruits and vegetables. Specific foods listed as part of the protocol include:
- Purple grapes
- Red raspberries with seeds
Cesium Chloride Protocol
The cesium chloride protocol is another alternative HIV/AIDS treatment that is also known as a cancer treatment. The protocol works to destroy viruses and the cells that breed viruses.
The protocol uses several minerals to increase the alkalinity of the body, which creates an unfavorable environment for the HIV/AIDS virus. It also includes the use of silver chloride, a kind of silver that kills viruses.
Alternative health practitioners sometimes recommend root canals for HIV/AIDS patients. Holistic dentists and biological dentists may perform root canals because the virus can live inside root canal teeth.
The virus in the teeth do not circulate in the blood so they are not accessible to the protocol. The virus can leak outside of the root canal teeth and infect people again after other treatments removed the virus from cells circulating in the blood.
Dietary supplements may assist to reduce side effects from anti-HIV drugs and help the immune system work better. Supplements that may be beneficial include:
- Coenzyme Q10 – Taking Coenzyme Q10 may raise levels of CD4 cells that the immune system needs to work properly.
- Fish Oil – Certain anti-HIV medications may elevate cholesterol levels. Fish oil may help to lower cholesterol levels.
- Whey Protein – Preliminary evidence indicates that whey protein, a cheese by-product, can help some people with HIV gain weight. Whey protein also appears to reduce diarrhea and increase CD4 counts.
A doctor should be consulted before a patient takes supplements due to risk of interactions between the supplements and the anti-HIV medications. For example, taking St. John’s wort may decrease the effectiveness of some anti-HIV medications by more than 50 percent. St. John’s wort is a popular supplement for relieving depression. Garlic supplements can also have an interaction with some anti-HIV medications and could lower their effectiveness by 50 percent. However, eating garlic on occasion is likely safe.
Herbs can be effective complementary therapy for reducing HIV/AIDS symptoms and supporting the immune system. Herbalists may recommend herbs for HIV patients, such as:
- Aloe vera
- Black radish
- Cat’s claw
- Chinese cucumber
- Dandelion root
- Magnolia vine berries
- Milk thistle
- Pau d’arco
- Siberian ginseng
- St. John’s wort
- Wild yam root
Alternative Treatment for HIV/AIDS in Africa
HIV/AIDS is an epidemic in places that do not have antiretroviral medications. In Africa, antiretroviral medications are not the primary form of treatment for HIV/AIDS as it is in the United States and other developed nations. Many HIV/AIDS patients receive herbs as their primary treatment for HIV and related issues, including nausea, insomnia, depression, weakness and skin disorders.
African herbal remedies are not well regulated or researched. However, two herbs are recommended for use as HIV treatment by the Ministry of Health in South Africa and other member states. The two herbs include the African Potato and Sutherlandia.
The African Potato herb is used as immunostimulant, meaning it boosts the immune system. The purported dosage of the raw African Potato plant is 2,400 milligrams per day. The herb is also given in tinctures and teas.
African Potato contains a hypoxoside, which is a nor-lignan glycoside. Hypoxoside transforms into the aglycone, rooperol, in the intestines. This active compound is believed to have medicinal properties. The herb also contains other helpful substances, including sterols, their glycosides and stanols, such as β-sitosterol, stigmasterol, β-sitosterol glycoside and sitostanol.
A complication of the African Potato herb is a possible interaction with HIV medications. Some in vitro research shows a reaction between the herb and metabolizing enzymes of HIV medications. This may result in drug resistance, less effective treatment and toxicity. However, it is possible that this interaction may not happen in vivo, meaning in people.
Sutherlandia is the other often used herbal compound in Africa for HIV/AIDS management. It is also used for a range of conditions, such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, peptic ulcers and influenza. The herb is deemed safe for use by the South African Ministry of Health. Sutherlandia works to boost the immune system. It may also possess antioxidant, anti-proliferative and anti-inflammatory properties.
Sutherlandia contains a substance called L-canavanine. It is an arginine analogue that may have antiviral properties that is effective against retroviruses like HIV and influenza. The herb also contains D-pinitol, a substance that may help relieve symptoms of wasting syndrome in AIDS patients.
Sutherlandia is available in tea, powdered forms and capsules. The South African Ministry of Health recommends the herbal remedy but there is no definitive data that supports it as an effective treatment.
Unfortunately, traditional healers in Africa have done harm as well as good. Due to lack of sanitation practices like washing hands and unsafe practices, such as reusing medical instruments, African healers have helped to spread blood borne diseases like HIV. More healers are being educated on the importance of sanitation practices, which may cut down on the spread of diseases. Efforts are also being made to better educate healers and the public on HIV prevention through safe sex practices, such as using condoms.
Traditional Chinese Medicine for HIV/AIDS
Traditional Chinese medicine is a system of healing that originated in China thousands of years ago. Traditional Chinese medicine works to boost the immune system of HIV/AIDS patients. It may also relieve side effects and HIV/AIDS symptoms.
Traditional Chinese may employ acupuncture and herbal remedies, or a combination of both. Acupuncture involves inserting thin, painless needles into spots on the body associated with chi, the body’s vital energy. The practice of acupuncture can relieve side effects caused by HIV/AIDS drugs, such as appetite loss, abdominal cramping and bloating. Acupuncturists may also help to relieve digestive symptoms linked to HIV/AIDS, including vomiting and bowel upset.
Doctors usually recommend that people begin antiretroviral medication treatment as soon as they are diagnosed with HIV. However, since HIV/AIDS medications cause such unpleasant side effects and not everyone experiences symptoms right away, some people turn to traditional Chinese medicine and other alternative treatments to slow the progression of HIV to AIDS as well as to treat the symptoms before agreeing to conventional drug therapy. Traditional Chinese medicine was also used by many patients when AIDS was first discovered in the ’80s, before antiretroviral medications were available. At that time, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners sought to treat the opportunistic infections caused by AIDS and other symptoms. Alternative treatments were the only option for AIDS patients until antiretroviral medications were invented.
Traditional Chinese medicine focuses on the connection between mind, spirit and body. Practitioners consider the effects emotions have on health and the flow of chi. Acupuncture and herbal remedies seek to restore energy flow and balance. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners address the unique issues of an individual with HIV/AIDS, as well as related complications like anemia or peripheral neuropathy. No two acupuncture treatments should be the same between different patients.
Researchers around the world have been searching for a vaccine for HIV. No one has yet found a proven HIV vaccine, but current trials have shown considerable progress. HIV vaccines are being developed either for preventing the spread of HIV in healthy people and controlling the virus in infected patients so that it does not progress to AIDS. Two promising vaccines are currently in the works in Spain and Canada. Although the two teams of researchers are using different approaches and focusing on different goals, both possible vaccines have scientists in the United States feeling cautiously optimistic.
Spanish scientists at the Spanish Superior Scientific Research Council in Madrid are working on a vaccine that trains people’s immune systems to detect HIV and fight the virus. The vaccine is called MVA-B. It is a variation of the same vaccinia virus used to eradicate the smallpox disease in the mid-20th century. In a study involving 30 healthy volunteers, 90 percent of subjects given the vaccine developed the ability to control the HIV virus. The vaccine teaches the body how to inactive the virus and destroy any cells that the virus has entered.
MVA-B is a therapeutic vaccine. This means that it would be given only to HIV-positive people to help their bodies control the virus and prevent spreading the virus. The vaccine would work in a similar fashion to antiretroviral drugs. A major difference is that patients would only receive an annual injection of the vaccine instead of taking antiretroviral pills every day.
In the Phase I study, 85 percent of participants showed the same immune system effect one year after initial administration. Testing 30 volunteers is the procedure for Phase I of human clinical trials. This vaccine still needs to go through Phase II and Phase III of clinical trials. Researchers says that if successful, HIV could become only as dangerous as the herpes virus is today.
Canadian researchers out of the University of Western Ontario are also performing human clinical trials on their version of an HIV vaccine. The Canadian vaccine research is backed financially by the pharmaceutical venture company Sumagen. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the Canadians permission to begin Phase I human trials in January 2012. Their vaccine is called SAV001 and it works by stimulating the immune system with a genetically modified killed whole virus. Researchers say that the other attempts to make vaccines all used live HIV viruses. This is the first trial for a vaccine that uses a killed virus.
Once Phase I clinical training is complete, Phases II and III still need to be undertaken before the vaccine could be used for the public. If approved, Phase II and Phase III would involve 600 healthy people considered at high risk for infecting the virus. Phase II would examine the immune responses of trial participants while Phase III would determine the efficacy of the vaccine.
If the SAV001 vaccine becomes approved for use it will only be effective for people who do not already have HIV/AIDS. The vaccine could end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by preventing the spread of the virus.
Concerns for Women With HIV/AIDS
Women who have HIV/AIDS need to take extra precautions. Female patients should get a Pap test annually and be screened for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Women with HIV are at a higher risk for abnormal Pap tests. Their weakened immune systems are less able to fight off STIs, such as the human papilloma virus (HPV) that can lead to cervical cancer. HPV infects the cells that Pap tests look at, namely the cervical cells.
Women with HIV should consider the potential concerns with becoming pregnant. Many women with HIV wish to avoid pregnancy due to the risk of passing on the virus. These women should talk to their doctors about the best method for birth control. Women with HIV who are pregnant or looking to become pregnant should speak with their doctors about potential effects of HIV treatment on their baby, possible complications with pregnancy and childbirth associated with HIV and how to best prevent spreading the infection. Approximately one in four pregnant women will pass HIV to their baby. However, early treatment with antiretroviral medications does lower the risk significantly.
Pregnant women with HIV still need to continue with regular Pap tests. Pregnant women must still use condoms, even if their partners are also HIV positive. Women should be cautious about catching other diseases as well.
Once a baby is born to a women with HIV, it is tested for the virus and given medication to prevent HIV infection and pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP). HIV positive women cannot breastfeed their babies due to risk of infection.
HIV is a chronic condition that although treatable is not curable. Treatments can prolong a progression to AIDS, but not always prevent it. As such, almost everyone who is HIV positive eventually gets AIDS, especially if they do not receive treatment. The few people who do not develop AIDS are called long-term nonprogressors.
People infected with HIV need to take special care of themselves throughout their lives whether they develop AIDS or not. HIV-infected patients need to take medications for the rest of their lives. It is critical that HIV and AIDS patients take their medications exactly as directed by their doctors. They are also advised to get flu and pneumonia shots.
Living with HIV and AIDs places significant stress on patients. Coping with the stress of the illness requires a lifelong commitment. People with HIV need to practice safe sex throughout their lives to prevent infection from other strains of HIV. They must also exercise consistently, avoid cigarette smoking, eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight. It is also important to get sufficient rest and to sleep well. Engaging in meditation and prayer can help people relax and reenergize. These actions can keep patients strong so they can fight off viruses.
Prevention for HIV/AIDS
People can decrease their risk of getting HIV/AIDS by abstaining from high risk activities associated with infection from the virus. All of the following guidelines can reduce people’s risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, some more than others. Guidelines include:
- Practice abstinence, including oral sex
- Have sex only within a monogamous relationship and with a non-infected partner
- Engage only in safe sex
- Refrain from sharing needles for any purpose
- Participate in routine medical care, including prenatal care
- Use new needles, not simply boiling them or wiping them off with alcohol
- Always use condoms if having sexual relations with a drug user
- Use condoms when engaging in sexual relations with people who have multiple partners
- Use protection when having sexual contact with HIV positive people
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