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Miracle Cures

May 8, 1996

"I am HIV+. Sometimes I hear stories about a doctor in some small town or in Europe who has a miracle cure. I don't know whether I should believe these stories."

Response from Dr. Cohen

The list of alternative therapies that have been touted as "cures" for AIDS over the years is a mile long, and none has amounted to anything. That's not to say that alternative therapies are useless; some may have potential for benefit and should be studied further. But whenever you see the word "cure" thrown around, you should be extremely skeptical. If there's ever a cure for AIDS, it won't be a secret, and you won't have to do any private investigation to get information. Of course, there are many people out there who, out of either desperation or paranoia, buy into all sorts of conspiracy theories about how the government or the military or the pharmaceutical industry or the American Medical Association (take your pick) are conspiring to suppress these "cures" to further their own nefarious ends. Conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen, and no amount of reasoning will convince those who cling to these theories that they are wrong. The fact is that everyone stands to benefit from a cure for AIDS, including the groups I mentioned above, so it's not likely that anyone would be able to suppress such a cure if it existed. Unfortunately, many people who are skeptical when it comes to therapies recommended by the medical "establishment" fail to apply that same skepticism to alternative therapies. They may criticize the design of a trial of a new antiretroviral agent, for example, while believing wholeheartedly in whatever their herbalist recommends or whatever is the current fad in their local support group. We must hold all therapies up to the same scrutiny, and demand that there be scientific evidence to support any treatment, whether it comes from the pharmaceutical industry, the underground, or the health food store. Meanwhile, we must expose those who knowingly take advantage of desperate people, making false claims and huge profits by selling useless snake-oil. Is this tincture of wormwood such a snake-oil? I can't say. I've never heard of it, but if it promises a cure, I'd say the odds are that it is. I think I'd save my money and try to get on a protease inhibitor instead.

Experimental Treatments Effective?
sequencing drugs

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