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The Benefits of Acupuncture

by Dr. Jan Steele

Summer 1994

PWA's have consistently sought treatment other than conventional Western therapy to support their health care. Traditional Chinese Medicine (including acupuncture & herbs) has always been among the top alternative choices.

As we know, HIV/AIDS can manifest differently in women than in men, and seems to center in the gynecological system. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a long established history of addressing women's health. According to this tradition, any menstrual irregularities, pre and post-childbirth complications or menopausal complexes can indicate deep seeded imbalances in vital systems such as Spleen, Liver and Kidney. (These are the systems that rule the functions of blood, hormones, fluids, developmental cycles, etc.) By methodically addressing these imbalances using acupuncture and herbal medicine, proper function, cycling, and health can be attained. This treatment approach applies to all women, especially those with HIV/AIDS.

Women with HIV/AIDS can benefit greatly by this ancient and long established medical system. It's of vital importance that these women restore balance to their health quickly, so that it does not go on to manifest or progress into a disease state.

The most common-seeming problems to all women can turn problematic when the immune system is compromised. This can include:

Menstrual related symptoms, such as: headache, bloating, breakthrough bleeding & cramping, irregular cycle, breast tenderness, irritability, depression, and cravings.

General gynecological signs & symptoms, such as: Chronic vaginitis, chronic yeast infections, endometriosis, venereal warts (HPV), irregular PAPS, cervical dysplasia, uterine fibroids & Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).

Pregnancy related issues, such as: repeated abortions, miscarriages, high number of births, morning sickness, premature labor, postpartum hemorrhage, breast feeding complications, and postpartum depression.

Menopausal issues, such as: Thinning hair, weight gain, skin changes, loss of strength, joint pain, insomnia, depression, irritability, and hot flashes.

Although many of the symptoms on this list are regarded as common in women's health, if any of them are excessive, in combination, or out of balance, it must be addressed promptly in a woman with HIV/AIDS. This gives the patient the advantage of having resolved as many gynecological health issues as possible as early in her HIV history as possible.

Typically, a woman suffering from PMS might expect treatment that includes weekly acupuncture therapy for three months along with herbs and dietary and lifestyle adjustments. In this time period, one could expect to see a marked improvement in the premenstrual symptoms. Treatment of cervical dysplasia or abnormal PAPS would be approached similarly, but therapy would extend over a six month period with follow-up PAPs to confirm the effectiveness of the treatment. With chronic vaginitis and yeast infections, herbal douches and suppositories are available to relieve immediate discomfort, with additional herbal formulas prescribed to address the underlying imbalance. Instruction in various self care techniques will also help the patient to feel more in charge of her therapy program.

TCM is well established in treating general HIV symptoms. Acupuncture and herbs used in combination have been shown in studies and clinical use to be extremely effective in treating HIV related fatigue, nausea, headaches, night sweats, diarrhea, insomnia, shingles, and Bell's Palsy. Drug side effect complications such as peripheral neuropathy, rashes, anemia and headaches are also very responsive to this gentle, non-toxic and natural therapy.

For information regarding treatment options and locations, contact the Being Alive office for referrals. Being Alive offers minimal cost/free acupuncture at their West Hollywood location, and has a special "Women Only" acupuncture on Thursdays. The Jeffrey Goodman Clinic also offers a special women's acupuncture clinic on Wednesday afternoons.

Dr. Jan Steele, O.M.D., L.Ac. runs low cost/free acupuncture clinics now in operation around Los Angeles. (213) 936-3162

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