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Dec 5, 2001

Are there any people out there strictly relying on herbal remedies for there infection. If so, how is this working for them?

Response from Dr. Young

I am quite sure that there are many persons who rely on herbal medications in an attempt to treat their HIV disease.

While I am sure to get lots of web comments to the contrary, none of these have been shown to cause inhibition of HIV replication, improvements in immune function or improvement in survival.

Furthermore, be wary that many of these products have not been tested for safety, and importantly, interactions with other medications. For example, we have recently learned about an unexpected negative interaction between St. John's wort and several medications (including HIV protease inhibitors).

While there are persons who have surivived a long time without antiretroviral medications (aka- long term non-progressors), the vast majority of persons withi HIV infection, untreated will have progressive immune depletion and progression to AIDS and death. There has been a movement that has attempted to persuade the general population that HIV medications are a conspiracy, or simply don't work. The effect of this so-called philosophy has been the discontinuation of HIV medications among persons who have benefited from treatment. I take care of two such persons who discontinued medications with CD4 counts in the 400-range, only to have them return to my office 1-2 years later with CD4 counts below 50 and active, life-threatening AIDS complications. This trend is very disturbing to me.

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