HIV can be treated, but not cured. Standard treatment for HIV is the use of antiretroviral drugs, which has proven to be the most effective in controlling HIV. There are complementary or alternative therapies as well. Researching the best options for your health, beliefs, and lifestyle is important.

Complementary vs. alternative: What’s the difference?

Complementary therapies are used at the same time you are on antiretroviral medication. They may help with side effects from the drugs, or help reduce stress and bring you peace of mind. Because they could affect how your medication works, always check with your doctor.

Alternative therapies are used instead of antiretroviral medication. They cannot control HIV, but they may help you feel a little better.

No matter what the type of therapy you’re exploring, here a few things to keep in mind:

  • There is no cure for HIV. If someone claims they can cure HIV, it’s not true.
  • If you decide to consult a natural practitioner, ask them about their knowledge of HIV. Make sure you get the right practitioner for you. Asking other women with HIV can help you with your search.
  • If you decide to take vitamins, supplements, or herbal remedies, talk to your doctor first. Even natural therapies can cause problems or interfere with your other medications.

Types of complementary and alternative therapies

Finding the best therapy can require some exploration. Many women find that a combination of healthy food, exercise, and reflection help them feel stronger and less stressed.  Some types of complementary and alternative therapies include the following:

  • non-touch bodywork: yoga, reiki, aromatherapy
  • touch bodywork: massage, reiki, shiatsu, reflexology
  • traditional Indigenous healing practices: smudges, sweat lodges, sharing and healing circles
  • traditional Chinese medicine: acupuncture, tai chi, qi gong
  • contemplative practices: journalling, meditation, mindfulness, visualization
  • herbs and supplements: vitamins, chamomile, ganoderma, marijuana

All of these practices can help you feel better.  Making changes in your life to include time or money for these things can be hard, but even one step at a time can help.

For detailed information about different kinds of complementary therapies, CATIE has some great guides.