Looking for functional medicine support for HIV alongside your current treatment? This page covers:
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HIV is a virus that’s transmitted through contact with infected body fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal fluid. HIV is the most common immunodeficiency condition, and it can develop into AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) if left untreated.
Immunodeficiency means having a weakened immune system, leaving a person susceptible to infections, frequent colds or flu, which commonly take longer to recover from.
After 1-4 weeks following initial infection, the first HIV symptoms are flu-like symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, and mild fever, and sometimes a rash. Symptoms may last 1-2 weeks, similar to a common cold or flu infection. After subsiding, a person may have no symptoms for months or even years.
Once HIV becomes embedded in the cells’ DNA, CD4+ immune cells that are involved in defending the body from pathogens like bacteria, yeasts and viruses begin to decline, and more significant signs and symptoms begin to appear.
The most common symptoms of HIV are an increase in contracting infections, such as colds, flu, sinus infections or thrush (candida). Often it will take progressively longer to recover from illnesses, and in many cases, patients will require medication (i.e. antibiotics) to aid recovery, or for secondary infections.
Other signs are:
As the condition progresses, a person with HIV may begin to accumulate additional infections, and other symptoms affecting the lungs, nervous system and digestive tract.
The main cause of HIV is the virus itself, and the main risk factors for HIV transmission are:
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is one of two lentiviruses (HIV-1 or HIV-2), a subclass of retroviruses which affect the CD4+ cells. CD4+ cells are a type of lymphocyte, also known as a white blood cell, and are an important part of the immune system.
Once HIV has entered the cell, it embeds permanently into the DNA and is replicated with every cell division. Initially, it may be inactive and cause no specific harm to the immune system, however once activated it takes over normal cell functions, using them to rapidly replicate itself, infect other CD4+ cells and progressively destroy them. This means a person with an active virus can become severely immunocompromised, and if left untreated will progress to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
The most significant risk for causing HIV disease progression and/or developing other complications are inconsistent taking of antiretroviral medications or contracting other conditions that compromise the immune system. Inconsistent adherence to taking medication allows the virus to become reactivated and replicate unhindered. This places a greater strain on the immune systems’ ability to maintain control of the virus, or prevent other viruses or infections.
Contracting other conditions or infections can reduce the effectiveness of the HIV medication by burdening the immune system, allowing the virus to become reactivated.
Other factors that can contribute to complications with HIV include:
People affected by HIV may also suffer from other conditions such as digestive disorders, skin conditions, inflammatory or autoimmune conditions, effects to the heart, lungs or nervous system, and may also have an increased risk of some cancers.
The conventional HIV treatment in Australia usually involves a combination of 2 or more antiretroviral medications, which block the function of specific enzymes that HIV requires for replication, and may include:
Some people require additional medications to prevent HIV from being able to enter and impair CD4+ immune cells. The latest generation of antiretroviral medications have been shown to reduce viral loads to undetectable levels and allow CD4+ cells to recover to normal levels, thereby improving immune function.
The approach currently is to commence antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible following diagnosis. People who consistently take their prescribed medications can maintain good immune function with little or no chance of transmitting HIV to another person.
However, antiretroviral medicine treatment does not restore full health, and can in some cases have cumulative side effects with long term use. Studies show these side effects can include raised cholesterol levels, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, kidney and liver disease and some cancers, as well as increases in osteopenia/bone degenerationn and neurocognitive disease.
To offset some of these risks, people often seek a complementary alternative treatment for their HIV alongside their current treatment, as well as for their overall system health and wellbeing. Our practitioners in Melbourne can provide a complementary HIV treatment to help those with HIV stay in good health.
It’s commonly thought that people living with HIV can’t live healthy lives, however through functional medicine treatment alongside regular medications, a person with HIV can live a healthy, normal life.
Functional medicine seeks to support all body systems to maximise health, using evidence based alternative medicine to support those with HIV that may include:
We deliver this complementary treatment to support people with HIV through our innovative 6-month program where you are supported by your practitioner and health coach to help you get your health and life back.
Because most of the strategies that improve your health are diet and lifestyle related, the ongoing support of a health coach will guide you to make lasting changes to your health, including recipes, resources and encouragement to keep you on track with your health plan.
Functional testing provides insight into the health of particular systems and where to target treatment to re-establish optimal health. Typically there can be up to a 12 month delay between contracting HIV, diagnosis, and stabilisation on medication, during which time the immune, gut and microbiome health is significantly impacted.
Functional testing can include tests such as:
Taylor is a 34 year old man who came to see us following his diagnosis of HIV 2 years previous, wanting to investigate some ongoing gut and digestive issues he had for many years, as well as to solve his anxiety and optimise his immune health.
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There are extremely low, or no detectable levels of HIV virus in saliva, therefore it is very unlikely you can get HIV from kissing. Maintaining a robust immune system can also reduce the chances of catching viruses in general.
HIV in Australia is becoming less common in the past 5 years, and has remained low. It was estimated in 2017 to be about 0.1% of the population and has decreased by about 7% when last reported in 2019.
HIV treatment in Australia incorporates a range of antiretroviral medications that are commenced as soon as possible after diagnosis, prescribed by a HIV specialist. Many people with HIV seek alternative treatment for HIV to support their overall health. Additional natural functional medicine treatment can support optimal health, by repairing and supporting organs and systems affected by HIV, and/or medications through nutrition, lifestyle medicine, and natural medicines like herbs. A person living with HIV taking regular medication and supporting their overall health can live a long, healthy and normal life.
Yes, HIV is now considered to be a chronic disease. Successful management can prevent it from progressing into AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), which is the late stage of the infection when the immune system is severely compromised by HIV. Alongside conventional medication that is essential to suppress the virus, HIV functional medicine support can help reduce the effects of the virus and progression into AIDs.
Blood tests screen for circulating antibodies, and due to its low cost, sensitivity and rapidity, the enzyme immunoassay (EIA) is the standard screening tool for HIV. After diagnosis, your HIV specialist will closely monitor your viral load and often your T-Cell count to ensure that your treatment continues to be effective on controlling your HIV. Additional support by a functional medicine practitioner can commence to build your health and resilience.
Easy bruising can be a sign of nutritional deficiencies like vitamin C or iron, or it can also be an early sign of HIV infection.
Once you have a formal diagnosis from your GP or HIV specialist, our healthcare team including Mark Payne in Melbourne, Australia will be happy to work integratively with your doctors to give you the necessary care to strengthen your health and provide the most effective results from your antiretroviral medications.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Reach out to the team directly – we’ll be happy to assist.