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HIV/AIDS: A holistic approach

In Health and Healing, Insight and Experience by James MayLeave a Comment

An account of the journey of an HIV positive man, living without medication for six years, having restored his health with a range of alternative healing modalities. The article discusses the efficacy and the suppression of these therapies in the face of pressure to rely on antiviral drug therapy.


When I tested HIV positive six years ago, I took it as a death sentence. According to the GP, ‘the average life expectancy was seven to ten years, depending on the efficacy of antiviral medication.’ I left the surgery devastated, my life transformed. For two years I lived as a dying person, contemplating a slow demise, giving up on life, waiting for the inevitable appearance of symptoms. It gave me little comfort that new drugs were in the pipeline; I couldn’t face the prospect of taking medication every day for the rest of my life. I knew too many horror stories about combination therapy, side effects, the failure rate of these drugs. I saw the doctor every three months for blood tests, waiting anxiously for the results, fearing the day I was told to start ‘cocktail therapy.’

My health was never the same since the diagnosis. I was tired, nauseous, run down; it was like waking up with a hangover each day. Every symptom I associated with a ‘viral infection’ seemed to work its way through my body. I lost weight, my energy levels were poor, chronic anxiety and depression were a major problem. I couldn’t stay out of bed for more than a few hours a day and I was contemplating suicide.

The day finally came when the doctor recommended antiviral therapy. My T Cells were falling, my Viral Load was off the scale, I had to start medication to avoid developing AIDS within a year, he claimed. By this stage I had systemic candida, fatigue, night sweats. I believed nothing could be done without pharmaceutical intervention and every HIV physician in Melbourne affirmed this belief.

Not wanting to begin medication, I searched out a naturopath. Just one week later, my symptoms were clear. He prescribed a herbal formula as well as Selenium and Multivitamins. Dairy products, yeast and sugar needed to be eliminated as much as possible. He educated me about the importance of digestive health when healing a suppressed immune system, regardless of HIV status.

He educated me about the impact of diet, lifestyle and emotions on the immune system. He asked about my childhood, my family history. He encouraged me to see the disease from a holistic perspective, taking the focus away from the ‘virus.’ I came to see how I played a role in the creation of my health through negative emotions, late nights, drug and alcohol use.

After growing up in a house affected by domestic violence and alcoholism, I was a destructive, angry person. Drugs such as speed and ecstasy were a major part of my lifestyle. I resented my family and the community in general for homophobic abuse and my subsequent lack of self-esteem. I lived in a state of chronic anxiety and fear; the world was a cold, unfriendly place and most of my days were marred with anger and self hatred. All these factors had impacted my immune system to the point where it was now struggling to keep me healthy.

It was a huge challenge to my thinking at first. I had seen myself as a ‘victim of the ‘AIDS virus.’ HIV was completely responsible for my condition, it was scientific in nature and science was the only way to respond. It was difficult to accept that my own behaviour was just as responsible. At the same time, it was the most empowering news since the diagnosis. If I had created this condition, then I had the power to turn things around. It wasn’t going to be easy but it could be done. For the first time in two years I felt I had a choice; I could reverse the situation.

The doctors weren’t happy with my new perspective, particularly my refusal to use antiviral drugs. They gave stern warnings to stay away from ‘the quacks’ and take medication as directed. For the first time, I questioned my diagnosis, the blood tests, the nature of ‘HIV’ and the correlation between ‘HIV and AIDS’. The answers were few and far between and flimsy at that. I no longer saw the HIV/AIDS paradigm the same way. I no longer saw HIV as being solely responsible for the condition known as AIDS and I certainly didn’t see AIDS as an inevitable part of my journey. There was a lot more to this condition than I was aware of. Most of all, I had choices; I had the choice to create health or embrace illness and death.

Six years on, I’m still medication free. It’s been a rewarding journey, though difficult at times. I struggled to have faith in my own healing power and the efficacy of natural medicine. It’s been a huge experiment, a huge test of faith. I am committed to healing this illness. Yoga, meditation, a healthful diet and plenty of rest are part of this commitment. In the meantime, I’ve encountered fierce opposition from doctors, AIDS organizations and people living with HIV/AIDS themselves.

Still, the evidence is undeniable. The routine has cleared most of my problems; I am healthier than before the diagnosis. I do have minor irritations such as fluctuating energy levels and a mild case of dermatitis. These things remind me when my emotional health needs attention, when I’m stressed out, not getting enough rest. My immune system was compromised by years of destructive behaviour. Healing is a journey, I need motivation to persevere; reminders can be valuable.

For the most part, my health improved when I gave up the idea that HIV =AIDS=Death. I started to believe in myself. I embraced life, I made a commitment to health. I tried everything; kinesiology, bowen therapy, crystal healing, shamanic healing. It’s been a long journey of trial and error and I’ve met some fantastic healers along the way. They have encouraged me to take control of my health and see my condition as an opportunity for growth and renewal.

Since being diagnosed HIV positive, I have experienced a spiritual awakening about health, relationships, sexuality, my attitude to life. My reality has undergone a rapid transformation, I’m a completely different person. I still have a long way to go; I can be a destructive thinker, lacking gratitude for being alive and well. At these times I remind myself how things have improved, thanks to HIV. I probably wouldn’t be alive without it. It gave me the motivation I needed to change my lifestyle and take care of myself; physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Being HIV positive has also made me aware of the struggle for alternative therapies to be acknowledged in the current medical climate. There is a great deal of politics surrounding HIV/AIDS; useful information is hidden from the public. Only the pharmaceutical agenda is publicised in the media and that is why I write this article. Many of us are living well without these drugs; it is possible to have a long, healthy life with HIV, without medication or the fear of developing AIDS. It is a treatable condition with natural medicine; we are living proof of this.

AIDS organisations and physicians do not support alternative medicine. As a patient you are forced to search for information, to learn to survive without medication. You have to search for products, do your own experiments, believe in your health. Alternative information has always been there, particularly with the rise of the Internet. Unfortunately, it is ridiculed by the status quo, suppressed by the pharmaceutical agenda. You won’t get this information from your doctor, the gay press or your local AIDS organisation.

AIDS is a global industry, there is a lucrative market at stake. People are misinformed; they are convinced they’ll die if they don’t resort to medication. They are denied access to alternative information. HIV=AIDS is a scientific theory accepted in popular consciousness. It is marketed to the public on a daily basis; largely to promote antiviral drugs.

There is another side to HIV/AIDS and people deserve to be informed, to be given choices. They deserve to live without the toxic side effects of medication. They deserve to live without the fear of AIDS and death. Natural medicine offers a safe alternative and should be recommended. The key is to rebuild the immune system, to address one’s lifestyle and emotions. It is not a death sentence. It is a chance to start over, try a new path, to live a longer, more rewarding life.


James May is a writer and AIDS activist, living in Melbourne. He was diagnosed HIV positive six years ago.

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