We may have jumped the gun and put all our efforts
into pharmaceuticals when it came to fighting AIDS.
Recognizing the ability of
the body to heal has prompted many to choose to combat HIV in
a non-medical direction. Often, people are effective in preventing
illness for years before drug intervention is ever necessary,
or not necessary at all. Others have continued to live without
any sign of HIV/AIDS related opportunistic infections or disease.
For some who have tested positive, there has never been any virus
replicated in their body. Equally so, many people who are on drug
treatments have learned to address the importance of diet, exercise,
alternative therapies and supplements, mind, body and spirit.
Let's not close our minds to what is right in front of us
showing endless opportunities. There are opportunities for us
to learn, grow and have healthy bodies!
"Health is indeed determined by a wide range of
influences beyond the traditional health care system.
Opportunities and responsibilities to improve or influence
health are shared by everyone, including individuals,
communities and governments", says Diane Marleau,
former Minister of Health.
In both Canada and the United States, health care systems are
being affected by the strains from use and rising costs.
Billions are being spent, while people look to the medical
profession to care for their illness. There is a whole
consciousness that supports disease and we can make an
attitude adjustment. If we took a little more care and
responsibility for our health and what we put into our
bodies, there would be less demand on our health care system.
We must not allow ourselves to fall prey to the belief that
science and the medical profession have all the answers, nor
can we find all our answers in pharmaceuticals. Science,
medicine and the use of pharmaceuticals play key roles,
but so does the greatest disease fighter on the planet, our immune system.
Those having to make decisions in treatment around choices
for healing do not have an easy task. Every person is unique.
Each one of us will have different responses to HIV and
antiretroviral treatment. There are options and we do have
choices. Many have chosen natural healing! Not everyone
is OUT publicly about his or her disease and/or treatments
and the number if known would be many! In the United States,
of those who went to hospitals and sought out medical advice,
three times as many people chose alternatives.
It seems there is only money in illness and no money in wellness!
Provincial Health Minister, Colin Hansen has said that the
Liberal government has made a commitment to fund health
care on the basis of evidence-based medicine.
He stated, "There is certainly a lack of
research around alternative therapies and whether or not
they do show evidence of better outcomes."
There are no shortages of researchers exploring the
positive benefits of vitamin supplementation and
complementary and alternative medicine. However, government
funding very often never materializes! Without government
funding, how can there be any 'evidence-based'
medicine for complementary therapies? Government lags in
funding, while science and the general public already
realize the benefits of complementary therapies.
Funding, education, implementation of complementary
therapies in our health care and recognizing the importance
of naturopathic physicians and securing their place in our
health care, is paramount! We should be studying the use of
supplements and including them in our health care. Funding
is necessary for additional research and fast tracking the
implementation of them, providing positive effects for
individuals with disease. Saving people's lives!
It is the responsibility of governments around the world
to include and provide these life-saving, natural alternatives
in health care systems and ensure natural supplements continue
to be available. With choice there is hope!
People infected with HIV or have AIDS and all those living
with a disability need a quality of life that does not
undermine their health. There are people dying due to the
stress on an already stressed and suppressed immune system.
There is added stress due to a lack of funds available to
support nutritional diet and good health. Proper nutrition
is necessary for HIV infected individuals, as those who eat
well feel better compared to those who consume a less than
adequate diet. Malnutrition can compromise their ability to
fight off infection. We should be making good nutrition a
high priority in AIDS treatment! There are people living
with HIV who are in constant need of medical attention due
to the poor quality of food and water. Water must be clear
of micro-organisms and tap water is not fit to drink by people
with a suppressed immune system, as they are susceptible to
Cryptosporidiosis and Microsporidiosis. There is a need and an
added expense of purchasing bottled water for drinking and cooking.
The lack of bottled water contributes to their disease.
There is a need for affordable housing, providing a comfortable
and stress free environment in which to live.
Health care would have a payback in reduced and delayed usage
with these provisions in place, as suggested by studies
confirming lower survival associated with these! A call
for action is necessary. The present situation dictates that
these are vital necessities for people living with HIV/AIDS
throughout the world! Since many people infected with HIV have
neither the health nor energy to work towards creating awareness
and change, it is my intention to speak through my experience
for those whom I hope will benefit. Ignoring the importance of
meeting these needs will bring an ever-increasing cost to our
health care systems and us worldwide. A simple exercise in
these directions and implementation would have an enormous
impact on the fight against AIDS!
My concern and disappointment is directed at the lack of
consideration given to the present situation of poverty,
poor nutrition, inadequate sanitation and housing for people
living with HIV. These issues are of the utmost importance to
individuals who are trying to maintain their health and living.
The present situation is driving people below poverty, affecting
their health and forcing them to live in standards no one would
want to experience! People, who have worked and contributed to
society, should not be subjected to living in inadequate
conditions due to health and inability to work when
diagnosed with a life threatening disease!
We are all here together, connected. Nothing is happening
to just one of us, but affecting ALL of us!
Individuals may not be having trouble with the virus
in their system as much as having some other factor
affecting their health.
Those suffering with illness and those who have watched
loved ones get sick or die know all too well that many
health conditions were either not diagnosed or mis-diagnosed,
but it was not HIV causing the problem. In my own situation,
this has happened numerous times. The medical profession
holds the HIV virus responsible for any and all illness
when a patient is diagnosed infected with HIV, using the
excuse that a condition is HIV related. It is because of
this rampant over diagnosis that little or no search is
undertaken to discover what is causing the health problem.
Other diseases occur and with a condition in progress or
uncontrolled with very little attention given it, this allows
for many people suffering and dying! This is not caused by HIV,
but from an invasion of bacteria, fungi, viruses and cancers,
unknown to those not looking!
More consideration has been directed at eradicating the
AIDS virus and not enough attention given to patients as
individuals. As well as the attention given to decreasing
the viral load and the search for a cure for AIDS,
maintenance needs to be addressed. Many have experienced
side effects of the drugs, pain, discomfort and prolonged
illness because science, medicine and the pharmaceutical
companies promote the direct attention to an actual VIRUS,
rather than to the greater needs of a suffering person.
If a person who is already experiencing problems with
their health is an individual who does not tolerate the
drug treatment well, then their side effects mask symptoms
of another illness.
For some individuals on HIV/AIDS treatments, there are few or
no side effects. Others experience side effects, which undermine
their ability to be well. Very often when a patient complains of
not feeling well, they are told or led to believe it is all
due to HIV or the side effects of the drugs. This has been
obvious to many others and myself since the beginning of HIV/AIDS.
In 1993, when I was living in Ottawa, my friends Barry and
Bruno, who were a couple, were on vacation in cottage
country in southern Ontario. Bruno was having abdominal
pain and Barry took him into the local hospital. I guess it
might have been obvious the two were gay, but even so, that
was no excuse for what took place. The doctors and nurses
took one look and decided they would not treat Bruno without
an HIV test first, just because he looked gay! Barry was
furious and demanded they do something without an HIV test.
They checked Bruno over superficially but did not determine
what was wrong and sent him home. The next day Bruno was
still in excruciating pain and they returned to the hospital.
Again, the doctors were assuming Bruno had AIDS and said an
HIV test had to be done and without an HIV test they would not treat Bruno.
Bruno and Barry knew something was seriously wrong, but they
did not feel Bruno had to do an HIV test. They were sent back
to the cottage. Barry made phone calls to Ottawa to members of
parliament voicing his outrage with the hospital and demanding
something be done. Unfortunately, the following day Bruno
had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. His appendix
had burst and the infection was rapidly running throughout his body.
An incision was made from his groin to his upper chest and
the infection was scraped away. Later an HIV test was done
and unaware to both Bruno and Barry, Bruno tested positive
for HIV. However, Bruno was not symptomatic for HIV;
he suffered from appendicitis!
Bruno recovered but he was never the same and in that
same year, Barry called and asked me to go with him to
the hospital in Montreal. Bruno was dying. After Bruno
died, Barry got tested and discovered he was HIV+ as well.
Barry was told to go on AZT and DDI. Barry was perfectly
happy and healthy and he never showed any signs of problems
with his health before going on the HIV/AIDS medications.
On the drugs, he got sick and progressively sicker. He lost
his hair and suffered from headaches, fatigue, insomnia,
nausea and he lost weight. As he continued with the medication,
other drugs were prescribed for the side effects he was
experiencing. Barry then developed a severe case of diarrhea,
which was diagnosed as being HIV related and/or the side
effects of the drugs. It wasn't either of these and
Barry went untreated for months. He had food poisoning from
salmonella and this was not discovered until it was too late.
Barry died while I was visiting him in the hospital!
My friend Bob also had to deal with mis-diagnosis or no
diagnosis. He was on AZT for several years when he started
to have severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Again, nothing
was done! This is an experience, which many living with HIV
as well as their family and friends can attest to. Bob was
not suffering from HIV related problems or side effects of
the drugs he was taking. Even when his drug regimen was
changed, Bob still complained about the problems he was
experiencing. Sadly, Bob was suffering from cancer, which
hadn't been diagnosed or treated (a cancer which is treatable).
Bob died leaving Buddy, his partner of 13 years, devastated and alone!
Those of us who have been living infected with HIV
know many illnesses and death can be attributed to the
use of HIV/AIDS medications.
From 1996-1999, I was involved in an ongoing program of the University of British Columbia School
of Nursing and St. Paul's Hospital and the Center For Excellence through
PWA (Person's With AIDS Society). The program was designed to promote
understanding of and an appreciation for the realities of living with HIV related illness.
This provided opportunities for student nurses to better understand the needs and care of
persons living with HIV/AIDS. Individuals who are infected with HIV volunteered and
discussed what it is like living with HIV. While volunteering in this program, I met
Maureen who was also a volunteer and HIV+.