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December 1, 2009

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Mega TCM treats AIDS but can it also cure?

ZHANG Jianming, a private traditional Chinese medicine doctor, has acquired a reputation for treating difficult conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and even cancer. Now he is ministering to an AIDS patient with mega doses of common herbs.

The patient's condition has improved greatly over two years, Zhang says, and predicts that the virus can not only be suppressed but also completely eliminated. He believes TCM can cure AIDS, though not every single patient can be cured.

So far he has only treated four patients, all improved, and one is still with him and improving dramatically, he says.

"I believe there is always a treatment for every disease, just as every lock was created with a key. All you have to do is find it," says Zhang, 52, who has been practicing for 30 years.

He first studied in a health school in Jiading District in the 1970s, then worked as a TCM physician in a local hospital, continued study and researched the effects of TCM on his own body.

He opened a private practice with a clinic in 2003, focusing on difficult and complicated diseases such as cancers. He also uses herbal treatments for the side effects of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.

He has quite a following and is regarded as something of a miracle worker.


Chinese physicians use a Western medicine cocktail of antiretroviral drugs to suppress AIDS, while acknowledging that TCM can help ease side effects and boost immunity. As for curing AIDS, that's vigorously debated in some medical circles.

"I know there are successful individual cases in TCM treatment, but so far there is not abundant clinical evidence that can prove its effectiveness in restricting or suppressing the virus in multiplying," says Dr Shen Yinzhong, AIDS specialist in the Infectious Diseases Department of Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center of Fudan University.

"We have to wait and see."

Zhang is determined to pursue his AIDS treatments.

All initial consultations costs 500 yuan (US$73). Then Zhang prescribes huge doses and the patient walks out with bags of herbs to brew at home.

He prescribes a powerful soup of common herbs, such as wild chrysanthemum, honeysuckle, huang lian (coptis root) and huang qin (baikal skullcap root), among others, plus balancing herbs. The dosage, however, is much larger than usually prescribed, in some cases 10 times as much.

Cancer patients are told to expect to pay 70,000-80,000 yuan each year for five years. The cost of long-term AIDS treatment is comparable.

Though AIDS is generally believed to be incurable, Zhang believes he can conquer some cases completely. The sooner treatment begins, the better.

Zhang also believes TCM treatment can help those who are HIV-positive lead healthier lives, boost their immune systems and delay the onset of AIDS. Some symptoms can be treated by TCM.

Herbal therapy can also counter the unpleasant side effects of Western antiretroviral "cocktails" of drugs.

His first AIDS patient (still in treatment) is a 40-year-old businessman who came to him in 2007.

The patient, David Song (not his real name) had a granuloma (tumor of "granular" tissue, usually benign but indicative of inflammation) on the ring finger of his left hand. A dermatologist ordered an HIV test and it came back positive.

Song also suffered great fatigue, frequent diarrhea, hot and cold flashes and weight loss.

He believes he contracted the virus when he had a tooth extraction. He is not a drug user, received no blood transfusions, and didn't have unsafe sex.

"Though I hadn't treated AIDS before, I thought about possible approaches," saysDr Zhang.

After his consultation, Song returned with his herbs and brewed them. He saw Zhang 15-20 days later. The routine continues, the dosage adjusted and carefully balanced for his changing system. Now Song sees the doctor about once a month.

Dr Zhang says some diseases, though having totally different symptoms, can be treated with the same strategy in TCM, using similar prescriptions.

For example, he says, psoriasis, eczema and lupus sebaceous are all caused by toxins from accumulated pathogenic dampness and heat; rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis, Raynaud's disease are all caused by deficient kidney energy and toxins from pathogenic dampness, wind and heat.

All about toxins

"This should also be the case for AIDS," says Zhang. "Hepatitis B, genital herpes, cervial cancer and AIDS are caused by different viruses, according to Western medicine, such as HBV, HSV, HPV and HIV.

"But in TCM, I consider them all caused by du (toxin) invading from outside. Dispelling the toxin while clearing pathogenic heat should be the strategy for treating all the four diseases."

The treatment is helping Song, his doctor says. The granuloma decreased in size by a quarter after 10 days of herbal treatment, and disappeared five months later.

Meanwhile, his fatigue has been greatly eased, his CD4 (immunity index) has improved and his HIV (AIDS virus) index dropped from 180,000 to 13,000.

Dr Zhang has treated three other HIV/AIDS patients, beside Song, over the past two years and says all have benefited. The three others discontinued treatment for various reasons: one man from Yunnan returned home.

Song's HIV-RNA treading (the quantity of virus in a milliter of blood) was close to normal in a recent test in Beijing, Dr Zhang says. He also gained weight.

The TCM strategy of dispelling toxins while clearing pathogenic heat applies to many ailments, such as ulcer, toothache and constipation.

Common herbs are used in large quantities.

Thirty grams is usually the maximum quantity of huang lian prescribed, as it is such a "cold" (yin energy) herb that it can damage the digestive system.

But Zhang prescribes 300 grams of huang lian, 10 times more each time.

Though TCM holds that if healthy energy is sufficient, no pathogenic energy can affect the body, in the case of HIV/AIDS reinforcing healthy qi may not work.

"The pathogenic energy is so strong; you have to fight back rather than just building up your castle at the same time," says Zhang.

To diminish the side effects of such strong medicine, Zhang adds some "warm" (yang energy) herbs for balance, which may also help strengthen healthy qi.

Zhang is confident in Song's case. He plans to decrease the dose one third when Song's viral index reaches normal.

If it is stable in six months, he will decrease it again by one third. In another six months if it's still stable, he will decrease it again.

Zhang believes treatment could last another two years and believes the virus could be banished.


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