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Q
Better Treatment for HIV/AIDS?

Is there any new information with regard to diet or herbal treatments for those with HIV/AIDS that might allow discontinuation of the "cocktail" medication?

A
Answer (Published 8/10/2004)

First of all, let me assure you that no herbal or dietary approach exists to replace treatment of HIV/AIDS with the highly effective "cocktail" of protease inhibitors and antiviral drugs. These medications reduce the amount of the HIV virus in the body, preventing development of full-blown AIDS and extending life expectancy. I would never advise a person with HIV/AIDS against using the "cocktail." The major disadvantage of this treatment is the number of pills involved, but this inconvenience is a small price to pay for a treatment that protects against a deadly disease. Unfortunately, the expense of the treatment means that millions of people in third-world countries where HIV/AIDS is rampant don't have access to these life-saving drugs.

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We urgently need programs to make the cocktail more widely available and affordable. Beyond that, we need an effective vaccine to stem the still-escalating AIDS epidemic. Some 40 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS, nearly one million of them in the United States. More than 40,000 people become infected with HIV in this country every year, and the spread of the disease continues unabated elsewhere. Reportedly, the disease is out of control in Russia with one out of every 100 adults infected. In India, 4.5 million people are infected - so many that World Health Organization authorities say that India may have overtaken South Africa as the most infected country.

Unfortunately, we don't yet have a vaccine, but that's not for lack of trying: a total of 30 vaccines are in human trials in 19 countries. The biggest obstacle investigators face is the ability of HIV to change its shape, frustrating efforts to find a vaccine that stops it from replicating.

To complement treatment with the HIV/AIDS cocktail of drugs, I recommend using a mixture of medicinal mushrooms with antiviral, immune-enhancing effects.

If you're taking the HIV/AIDS cocktail, be cautious about the use of two herbal remedies. Studies at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that taking garlic supplements twice a day for three weeks reduced blood levels of the anti-HIV drug saquinavir by approximately 50 percent. The same team found that St. John's wort can reduce concentrations in the blood of the protease inhibitor indinavir.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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