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Moving Forward With Integrative AIDS Research

By George M. Carter, Mark Kuebel and Evan Ruderman

June 2003

The Foundation for Integrative AIDS Research (FIAR) is a not-for-profit organization formed in October, 2001, to sponsor and stimulate interest in clinical trials of herbal and nutritional treatments for people with HIV, AIDS and chronic hepatitis. The goal is to show whether or not these treatments can lessen symptoms, delay the use of Western drugs, reduce side effects, and are safe. FIAR is working to develop studies in developing nations where indigenous treatments are used and Western drugs are largely unavailable. FIAR also seeks to help bring affordable Western drugs, education and prevention to such under-served areas.

FIAR has been working on several studies in collaboration with the Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Among these are a study of milk thistle in people with HIV and hepatitis C, a study of the Ayurvedic herb, Bacopa monniera for minor cognitive motor disorder, and a proposed phase I study of a therapy being used by Siddha practitioners in Southern India. Siddha is an ancient traditional medicinal system of India. FIAR has also started a pilot condom distribution program for men who have sex with men in Kathmandu, Nepal, working with the Blue Diamond Society. Groundwork is being laid for an STD/HIV clinic there.

The goal in working with local communities is to design and implement clinical studies that help establish and strengthen local capacity by bringing attention and funding where it is needed. FIAR's selection of clinical questions to be addressed will be drawn first from the infected and affected community. Such a grassroots based approach to generating study questions will help promote a sense of cooperation and comradeship between researchers and people living with disease. Of course, the first duty to participants in such studies is to assure only the highest standards for informed consent, patient protection and careful monitoring are met.

It's time that people had better information to help guide treatment choices. Many studies show that a high percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS already use many of these interventions. Yet many questions remain: How do they work? Can they help to manage side effects of drug therapy? Can they slow the rate of progression? FIAR, working with the HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis communities, clinics, hospitals, practitioners and organizations around the United States and elsewhere, intends to design, fund and implement clinical studies to address some of these questions and thus help people make better-informed treatment decisions.

For more information about FIAR: E-mail: fiar@verizon.net. Web: http://aidsinfonyc.org/fiar.


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