Hospital to relieve Aids with needles

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Acupuncture treatment for patients with Aids and HIV is to be made available on the NHS at King's College Hospital.

A pilot study found that the treatment can help patients better manage the illnesses associated with full-blown Aids, which may cut the need for expensive drugs and pounds 250-a-day stays in hospital.

The clinic has taken responses from the 30 patients a week who attend the department of genito-urinary medicine in Denmark Hill, south London. They form 20 per cent of the total of HIV attendances at the hospital.

Nearly all of those who filled in the questionnaire felt more relaxed and noted improvements in HIV symptoms, including night sweats, persistent diarrhoea, headaches and even itching.

Gerad Kite, the acupuncturist, conceded that the placebo effect may have influenced the anecdotal results but noted that patients had repeatedly requested the treatment in preference to sleeping pills and anti-depressants.

'I also give people counselling when they come for treatment. I want to make people start doing things for themselves, so they can start, at least, eating and sleeping properly.

Nick Hulme, outpatients service business manager, said the hospital had placed a bid for pounds 5,000 with Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Health Commission, the hospital's main contractor, for acupuncture to be made available for one session a week at the unit.

'Drugs used in HIV care are astronomically expensive. Most of the drug companies charge what they like. Our DNA (did not attend) rate is virtually non-existent for the acupuncture treatment. Patients are told that if they miss one appointment they cannot come back.

Matthew, aged 28, discovered he was HIV-positive and had Aids a week after his boyfriend died of the disease. He is undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma. He said: 'It is hard not to sound a bit new age about it all, but every time I've left after treatment I've felt more balanced and calmer. For me having acupuncture is like going to the gym.

Mr Kite, who is also a trained counsellor, has no fear of contracting the virus: 'All the needles are disposable and you rarely draw blood.