James was diagnosed in 2010, just six months after my mum died of the side effects of chemotherapy used to 'treat' her brain tumour. When he was diagnosed I was only just starting to question orthodox allopathic medicine and so when the doctors advised that he start ARV treatment immediately, we obeyed without question, reassured by the promise that the drugs were safe and prolonged life. His CD4 count was quite low at 200 and his viral load was around 8000 copies. We were told that he was borderline AIDS and that he shouldn’t wait a second longer. Over the next few months he would go in for blood tests every few weeks and the results were invariably the same: CD4 around 200 and viral load undetectable. We were reassured by the doctor that although his CD4 count had not recovered, he was doing great because the virus was undetectable in his blood. This was when the first alarm bells started to ring. It surprised me that despite the viral load being ‘undetectable’ his CD4 count had not budged and he certainly wasn’t feeling any better. Indeed, shortly after he started treatment, the side effects started to kick in and before long he was feeling suicidal and paranoid, not to mention nauseous, weak and a whole host of other unpleasant symptoms.
It was also at this time that we started to find documentaries featuring Peter Deusberg such as House of Numbers. It didn’t take long before we were both confused and terrified. Over the following two years I retrained as a nutritionist and continued to research HIV. More and more I was aware of the lack of evidence to support the HIV hypothesis and that the likely causative factors were lifestyle related. James was a textbook case: he was partying regularly, staying out all night getting up to his eyeballs on MDMA, coke, GHB, alcohol and anything else he could get his hands on. With much protestation, I eventually managed to convince him to calm down and start looking after himself a bit more. I started making him smoothies and juices and his health slowly started to improve.
In December last year James finally agreed that, in light of the lack of evidence to support the HIV hypothesis and the severe side effects of the drugs, that the safest bet was to cease drug therapy. He went in to discuss this with his doctor. Needless to say she was horrified by the idea and warned him that if he stopped taking the drugs, given his low CD4 count, the virus would overpower his immune system within a matter of days or weeks and it could be fatal. He came home terrified, deflated and brain-washed. I was devastated as it seemed as though we had gone back to square one. Anyway, after he had calmed down I managed to reassure him and we proceeded. Much to his surprise, he experienced NO negative side effects when he came off the drugs. Every day he awoke to find himself feeling better, clearer-headed and more energised. Within a few weeks people started commenting on how healthy he looked. His eyes were no longer yellow and the elasticity returned to his skin. He himself noticed that he had much more energy at the gym and his fat distribution began to return to normal.
Around mid April James was invited to a party whilst I was away. Temptation got the better of him and he ended up going on a complete bender where he used MDMA, mephedrone, coke, alcohol, GHB and tobacco. When I came back on Sunday he looked dreadful. He was dehydrated, exhausted and smelt very chemical and toxic. The next day he started to get a chesty cough. I advised him to rest, but he insisted on going to work. The trains were not running that day and it was pouring with rain. He ended up cycling 20 miles in the pouring rain, without a jacket, with a chesty cough, then worked a 10 hour shift in a stressful kitchen and then cycled home. That night he developed a severe fever and rapid, shallow breathing. He was extremely uncomfortable and breathless. He had all the symptoms of pneumonia so we called out the paramedics. He was admitted to A&E and when asked if he had any health complications he told them he was HIV positive. He was diagnosed with PCP pneumonia and they took his CD4 count which was 120. The doctor told him he had AIDS and should resume drug treatment ASAP else he was risking his life. Back to square one again!
He came home and I treated him with green juices, herbs and Aloe Vera and he made a complete recovery within 5 days. Despite this, he was still very afraid and kept saying ‘I have AIDS, we got it wrong, I’ve got to go back on the drugs!’. I managed to calm him down and reassure him that we was ok. We finally decided to wait just four weeks until his next scheduled blood test. If his CD4 was above 200 we agreed that he would remain off the drugs. Over the course of the next four weeks I gave him intense nutritional therapy comprising several organic, green super juices and smoothies a day, fresh Aloe Vera leaf juice, Reishi, Chaga and Shiitake mushroom extract, Siberian Ginseng, Maca Root, Spirulina and Sutherlandia Frutescens. We got the test results back a few days ago and his CD4 has gone up to 340 (significantly higher than any result he has ever had over the past 2.5 years). His viral load was a mere 4000 copies, which I know is considered very low. So we are over-the-moon, but most importantly, here is a compelling case study showing that you can go from an AIDS diagnosis with PCP to perfectly healthy with an almost undetectable viral load in four weeks, WITHOUT DRUGS. Interestingly, his doctor did recognise that having pneumonia has quite a strong impact on CD4 count and that the count they did at the hospital was low BECAUSE of the pneumonia. However, she also said that with ‘normal’ people, the CD4 count recovers quite quickly but that with HIV positives this did NOT happen. In other words, he would NOT recover his CD4 count because of his status and would need to resume drug treatment.
Well, we blew that theory out of the water :-). His doctor was very matter-of-fact when she gave him the results. I suspect she will have done what most doctors do when the results don’t fit into their paradigm: they simply cast them off as ‘spontaneous remissions’.
(names have been changed)
Editors Note: This interesting tale nonetheless reveals how difficult it can be for some people to recognise that health challenges may be due to something directly under our control and not necessarily to some external infectious agent that we have no direct control over. Readers should also note that rises and falls in parameters such as CD4 counts and viral load figures have a very tenuous connection with actual health in terms of offering a predictive capability. the most important measure is clinical health, which is after all, the bottom line.