The global effects of HIV and AIDS are overwhelming. Over the course of the last 27 years, since the discovery of the HIV virus in 1981, more than 25 million people have died of AIDS. More than 38.6 million people were estimated to be living with HIV at the end of 2005. The epidemic has radically influenced the physical and emotional well-being, as well as financial security, of many individuals, communities and nations. The devastating outcomes of the disease are evident.
Discussions concerning HIV/AIDS generally point to anti-retroviral therapy (ART) as the optimal intervention that has been proven to extend the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV). This drug therapy is expensive and is more accessible in developed countries and places such as Thailand than in India or Africa.
While universal access to ART is extremely important, it is now known that many affected by HIV and AIDS will not have the opportunity to receive this treatment for several years to come. It is also known that for every person with access to treatment, four new people are infected with HIV. So treatment without prevention is unsustainable. Treatment needs to include those therapies that maintain health and improve quality of life while patients wait for ART.
We have also learned that proper nutrition is a critical factor in tackling AIDS successfully. ART does not work without adequate and nutritious food; pills alone are not enough. Furthermore, the lack of HIV education in indigenous languages as well as the continuing personal and social damage caused by HIV-stigma and gender inequality are significant underlying issues that must be addressed before AIDS can be eliminated. For these reasons, grassroots programs are key in dealing with HIV/AIDS worldwide and they are why the Laura Louie Hope Projects’s projects can really make a difference.
Anti retroviral treatment for PLHIV can be accompanied by extreme side effects that include pain, peripheral neuropathy, diarrhea and insomnia. Fortunately, these side effects and the symptoms related to chronic HIV infection can be improved by acupuncture treatment. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a long history of being used to enhance the body’s immune function. For HIV and AIDS patient, TCM allows for symptom treatment without the need to add extra medications to an often complex drug regiment. By decreasing HIV and ART related symptoms, acupuncture has the potential to improve the quality of life of PLHIV.
The Laura Louie Hope Projects intends to provide acupuncture treatments to improve the quality of life of those affected by HIV/AIDS as well as to support them through community based, sustainable programs. Nutritional training, as well as a culturally sensitive educational component including workshops and counseling to help people better understand HIV and its stigma, along with gender equality issues are important elements of the Projects’s programs.