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Bradford's Essay
On HIV: Science, Medical, Pharmaceutical, Government and Media
Bradford's Essay
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Science, Medical, Pharmaceutical, Government and Media
by Bradford McIntyre



Since the beginning, living with HIV has prompted many to learn about their bodies, to gain understanding of its needs. Large numbers of people have incorporated the knowledge of HIV/AIDS medications, how they work, what they do, dosages to take with or without food, side effects and benefits! Antiretroviral medications deplete many of the micronutrients necessary to keep the body healthy. Without complementary therapies, patients are at a greater risk of failing drug treatments because they can't tolerate the side effects. They may decide to discontinue a treatment, which could have proved beneficial, had they been able to overcome the initial side effects. Complementary therapies can address many of the side effects.

The body needs more than the HIV drug combinations and people all over the world are in agreement! Individuals not on medications know the importance and the work required, to remain off, or go off HIV/AIDS medications. Many individuals on medications are not relying totally on combination therapy. They are including the use of complementary therapies (CAM) and they ARE successfully boosting the immune system, reducing the side effects of the drugs and increasing the efficacy of the HIV/AIDS drugs.

There is a lack of research conducted on complementary therapies and very little information on complementary and alternative therapies in the treatment of HIV/AIDS reported at AIDS Conferences. The medical profession was not taught about these therapies, so there is very little recognition given to them. Government, like the medical profession, lacks education about these therapies, so very little or no money goes towards studies. Some complementary therapies have been discounted, but there are those that work and many more that show promise!

I recognize the significant accomplishments of science, medicine and the pharmaceutical companies and commend the work being done. Many are benefiting and I have seen people who were seriously ill regain a quality of health due to the HIV/AIDS treatments, myself included! I have seen people who were at one time in wheelchairs, recover and return to wellness due to new drug treatments and protease inhibitors. Weight gain, energy and hope have been restored in what might otherwise have meant death without these drugs. Initially, people did not have the treatment options we have today, but they led the way. Many people died in the process. People offered themselves to science in the hope of finding a way to stay well, stay alive and move forward in treatment options. Without individuals engaged in studies and drug trials, we would not have the success in saving lives we have today.

Many benefit and live longer due to the new drug treatments and protease inhibitors available. Along with preventing the virus from replicating and boosting the immune system, we now have yet another obstacle to overcome, which is the toxic side effects of AIDS treatments! A study reported at the 10th Retrovirus Conference documented an increased incidence of heart trouble in people on HIV/AIDS medications.

"Every year you stay on current HIV medication is associated with a 27 per cent higher risk of getting a heart attack", said presenter Dr. Jens Lundgren.

Large numbers of individuals on antiretroviral combination therapies are developing lipodystrophy. This is a wasting of the fat in the face, arms, legs and buttocks and/or an accumulation of fat on the belly and on the neck. Protease inhibitors can increase the risk of diabetes in HIV positive women. The use of HIV/AIDS medications is also putting HIV positive people at a higher risk of developing lung cancer, eight times greater than someone who is not on medications.

Other complications which are a major concern for a large number of individuals on antiretroviral therapy include: muscle loss, weight loss, bone degeneration, peripheral neuropathy, fatigue, shortness of breath, kidney and liver deterioration and failure, pancreatitis and diarrhea. Many of these side effects are related to mitochondrial toxicity caused by nucleoside therapies. Others and myself are often faced with this challenge!

"With the passing of time and the introduction of new and hopefully improved HIV drugs, the relative threat to PWA's of adverse drug reactions compared to HIV itself is increasing. This trend will continue. Many of the world's leading physicians and researchers have predicted that substantial numbers of patients with HIV will be injured and even die from causes related to their treatment. In addition to holding government accountable for the culpability in these outcomes and convincing them to supply the will and resources for progress, it becomes increasingly vital for PWA's to assume an informed and active role in monitoring health. When making treatment decisions and while on therapy, it is important to be familiar with information that is available about HIV drugs and to evaluate your choices according to your own medical circumstances. You need to be alert to any symptom you are experiencing that could be related to your medication. The sooner you and your doctor are able to identify a reaction and intervene appropriately, the safer you will be", said Glen Hillson, vice-chair of the Canadian Treatment Action Council and president of BC People With AIDS Society. Glen Hillson, a recipient of the Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth, in recognition of his years of hard work and dedication to the HIV/AIDS movement, died June 12th, 2003.

Funding is needed for science and medicine to combat the HIV virus and find a cure, as well as the necessity for more effective drugs with less harmful side effects. Now is not the time for governments to overlook this necessary funding, when the numbers of people infected with HIV or AIDS suggests otherwise! Yet, both the Canadian and American governments have fallen short when it comes to financial support in the fight against HIV and AIDS at home, and abroad.

Along with providing more money for research and development, making newer and better drugs available faster, time and energy must be spent lobbying pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of these HIV/AIDS drugs, considering the huge profits made. The new HIV/AIDS drug Fuzeon (T20), is priced by manufacturer Roche at $20,500 a year, costing more than any other HIV/AIDS drug on the market, with expected sales of $740 million!

Equally unsettling, the World Trade Organization, (WTO) had blocked demands from developing countries, not allowing developing countries to import cheap generic drugs and override patents on drugs, for diseases in emergency situations. Finally, on August 30th, 2003, the World Trade Organization agreed to allow countries without pharmaceutical industries to import cheaper generic drugs to fight disease. However, more than two million people have died of AIDS, in the time that it has taken the World Trade Organization to agree!

An integrated health care system is the will of the people! Governments can include complementary treatment and supplements into health care to benefit those living with disease. Pharmaceuticals are an important part in the treatment and there is no shortage of work ahead for pharmaceuticals. But, what the pharmaceuticals can't do is address the need the body has for nutrients.

"It is time to end the monopoly that the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry have on our public health care dollars. The next step in empowering consumers is to have natural health products and practices paid for by our so-called universal health care system", says Paula Braitstein, senior policy advisor on health promotion for the BCPWA Society.

Over the last two years my drug combination was no longer able to continue to increase my CD4 count further and the HIV/AIDS drugs were unable to keep my viral load at undetectable. We must not; we cannot, discount the ability of individuals to have a positive impact and create wellness, using every available means they have to combat the HIV virus. Over the past year and half, I have strengthened my immune system (CD4 count) substantially and decreased the viral load to undetectable using regular vitamin C intravenous injections and other vitamins and minerals. There are two measurements for 'undetectable' 1) less than 50 particles or 2) no trace of HIV found in the blood. With my involvement in the treatment of HIV/AIDS using vitamin C intravenous therapy, provided by my naturopathic physician, my blood has shown consistently, for over a year, no trace of HIV. This allowed me to have my first opportunity in five years to go off all HIV/AIDS medications and enjoy a 2-month holiday (treatment interruption).

Researchers at the Northwestern University School of Medicine reported December 6, 2002, "Antiviral therapy can be safely deferred for patients with CD4-cell counts above 200 and viral loads less than 20,000, as well as for those with CD4-cell counts above 350 and viral loads under 60,000."

I was aware of the use of intravenous vitamin C in the treatment of cancer and unlike the chemotherapy drugs, it does not have the adverse side effects of chemotherapy. With benefits, which include increasing collagen and boosting the immune system, intravenous vitamin C has been very successful in the treatment of cancerous tumors and many different types of cancers. From the early 80's, in cities like San Francisco, clinics opened due to the demand for intravenous vitamin C by individuals infected with HIV. In people infected with HIV, many are known to suffer from oxidative stress and are deficient in antioxidant micronutrients. Vitamin C reduces the oxidative stress and reduces the viral load.

Dr. Anita Tannis of the Center for Integrated Health says, "I think there's a lot of similarities between people who have cancer and people who have HIV and in fact people who have any chronic disease. One of the things that we actually think is that people with HIV and cancer are on the leading edge of looking at integrating complementary and alternative therapies with conventional ones. I think what it is, is that we are married to this idea that the doctor knows everything and as a result of that what has happened through the years is that we have given up our own autonomy, our own intuition and what can be helpful to us. The alternative and complementary modalities, what they can do is they can actually decrease stress which helps to promote the better functioning of the immune system. They can actually have a direct effect upon different types of cells within the body that can affect the immune system. They can enhance a general sense of well-being which then in fact works back with the immune system."

"The success of treatments with ascorbate entirely depends on consistent administration of C sufficient to neutralize the free radicals produced by the various diseases", says Dr. Robert F. Cathcart, M.D.

My vitamin C therapy started with 5g of Ascorbic Acid with increases, which have now reached 20g. The IV bag also includes: Magnesium Chloride 20%, Calcium Gluconate 10%, B12- Hydroxocobalamin (100 mg/cc), B6-Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (100 mg/cc), B5-Dexpanthenol (250 mg/cc), B-Complex, Licorice root extract-Glycyrrlizic (8mg/ml). This treatment has helped to significantly boost my (CD4) immune system and maintain my viral load at undetectable when the drugs could not. Neuropathy and my quality of life have improved in numerous ways!

...positive attitudes are not simply 'moods'

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