How do approaches to treating HIV/AIDS with Chinese Medicine vary in practice in different social and cultural settings? A literature review and four clinic case studies

Sharon Dawn Taylor 2002


HIV/Aids is a modern disease that has claimed many lives in its short history. Western medicine drugs to combat the disease have been developed and have greatly prolonged the lives of many HIV/AIDS patients, but a decrease in the mortality rate is sadly accompanied by an increase in the numbers of those infected and affected.

In the late 1980s and the early 1990s a number of papers were published on the approach of Chinese medicine to the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Since and since triple-combination drug therapy was introduced in 1997, there have been fewer such studies.

This research sets out to investigate how the approaches to treating HIV/AIDS with Chinese medicine vary in practice in different social and cultural settings. The method of research was a literature review and four clinic visits in the UK and the USA to observe current practice. The visits were essentially case studies, completed through interviews and observation, and analysed using qualitative methodology.

Two pilot clinic visits and a preliminary literature review aided the development of four themes of research: the social and cultural setting of clinics, the background of the practitioners, treatment protocols and the basis of theory for treatment.

The study revealed the main differences in approach were in group treatments, the use of moxibustion, and the use of Chinese herbs. In some circumstances it can be argued that the approach was influenced by cultural and socio-economic factors, but approaches also appear to be informed by the beliefs of the practitioners.

Throughout the study, it has been evident that, whatever their beliefs, practitioners have tailored their approaches in response to the needs of the patients, adapting as the nature of the epidemic changed, contributing what they can to support their patients.