What is HIV/AIDS?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) by destroying CD4+ helper T cells, thus weakening the host’s immune system. When HIV invades a host cell, it integrates its viral genetic material into the cell’s genome. As the viral load increases, the patient’s immune system weakens, and becomes susceptible to opportunistic infection.
Thankfully, many treatment options now exist for people with HIV, and quality of life and mortality rates continue to improve. Conventional antiretroviral therapies, however, can have troubling side effects such as lipodystrophy, insulin resistance, and even diabetes and increased cardiovascular risk.
Natural interventions such as green coffee extract and multivitamins may complement antiretroviral therapy to further improve quality of life and reduce unwanted side effects.
What are the Risk Factors for HIV/AIDS?
- Exposure to contaminated body fluids:
- Blood (eg, transfusions, sharing intravenous drug needles)
- Semen (eg, sexual intercourse)
- Breast milk
- Presence of sexually-transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and chlamydia
- Uncircumcised men have a higher risk than circumcised men
What are the Signs and Symptoms of HIV/AIDS?
Note: HIV stages progress from acute, to latent, to late/advanced stages and AIDS.
Early symptoms can last a few weeks and may include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle pain
- Oral and/or esophageal sores
The latent phase may last months or even years and present no symptoms. Symptoms reappear at later stages and can include:
- Night sweats
- Susceptibility to various infections
What are Conventional Medical Treatments for HIV/AIDS?
Note: Conventional treatment regimens generally combine multiple antiretroviral drugs. Some antiretroviral therapies include:
- Entry inhibitors (eg, maraviroc)
- Fusion inhibitors (eg, enfuvirtide)
- Nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs/ NtRTIs) (eg, abacavir)
- Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) (eg, etravirine)
- Integrase inhibitors (eg, raltegravir)
- Protease inhibitors (eg, ritonavir)
What are Emerging Therapies for HIV/AIDS?
- *Metformin, the diabetes drug, can maintain glucose metabolism and reduce cardiovascular risk factors associated with antiretroviral therapy.
- Cytokine therapy is being researched to restore normal cytokine signaling that is essential for immunologic activity and is disrupted by HIV infection.
- Hormone restoration therapy, including growth hormone, sex hormones, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), may benefit patients with HIV.
- Attempts to create an HIV vaccine have been ongoing.
What Dietary and Lifestyle Changes Can Be Beneficial for HIV/AIDS?
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to ensure adequate intake of essential nutrients
- Engage in a regular form of moderate exercise
- Avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits such as illicit drug use, smoking, and drinking alcohol excessively
What Natural Interventions May Be Beneficial for HIV/AIDS?
- *Green coffee extract. Extracts from green coffee beans, high in chlorogenic acid, suppress excess blood glucose levels; therefore, they may benefit HIV patients on antiretrovirals who develop insulin resistance or diabetes.
- Multivitamins. Multivitamins, including vitamins A, B complex, C, D, and E, have been shown to reduce the risk of HIV progression, improve pregnancy outcomes in HIV-positive mothers, and alleviate comorbidities.
- Antioxidants. Oxidative damage participates in the progression of HIV to AIDS. Antioxidants such as carotenoids, glutathione, N-acetlycysteine, green tea, lipoic acid, and carnitine have all been shown to benefit patients with HIV.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may improve lipid profiles in HIV patients.
- Other natural interventions may help promote immune system function and improve well-being for HIV patients, including whey protein, selenium, lactoferrin, zinc, coenzyme Q10, reishi, and probiotics.
*Metformin and green coffee extract may not be a good choice for patients with malabsorption. Always speak to your doctor before adding to your treatment regimen.