Alternative Therapies

Therapies are available bi monthly with appointments during the day and outside normal working hours for those who would find it difficult to access support during normal office hours. Please contact us for details

Our therapist John Philbin holds a BSc in Acupuncture from Portsmouth University and a Diploma in Massage and Bodywork from The Institute of Traditional Herbal Medicine and Aromatherapy, Regents Park. He has over fifteen years experience of working in the HIV sector for the following organizations:

  • London Lighthouse (therapy clinic, residential unit and day care) (1994-2002)
  • Immune Development Trust (placements at Chelsea and Westminster
  • Kobler Clinic, Charing Cross Hospital Centre for Sexual Health and St Josephs Hospice Hackney) (1994-2004)
  • Herts Aid (1995–2002)
  • The Lodge Luton (2001–2002)

Therapies that are currently offered include Aromatherapy and Massage.

Complementary therapies are used by a large number of people with HIV. Reasons for the use of complementary therapies include stress reduction, the relief of side-effects and symptoms and to relieve pain.

Reducing stress
Many people use complementary therapies to reduce stress. They can also have added benefits, such as increasing a general sense of health and well-being.

Reducing treatment side-effects
The side effects of HIV treatment, and of the drugs used to treat infections, can be improved by acupuncture and complementary medicines. For example, certain abdominal acupuncture points can help control diarrhoea, a very common side-effect of HIV treatment. Aromatherapy oils, such as rosemary and peppermint, can relieve feelings of nausea; and relaxation therapies such as massage can help with disturbed sleep and anxiety.

Pain relief
Some forms of complementary therapy can provide effective pain relief. Acupuncture is commonly used to relieve pain and massage therapies can also be effective, particularly for muscle or joint pain.

One study has shown that acupuncture can be effective in the control of side-effects of HIV combination therapy. (Somers EA, Porter KE; International Conference on Aids) The study concluded that adherence to anti-HIV therapies improved following symptom-specific treatment (80 percent) compared to non-specific treatment (68 percent). Current plans are to expand the pilot study to see if these results hold true in a larger and more diverse group of people.

Another study observed the effects of individualised acupuncture on sleep quality in HIV disease.  Acupuncture was individualised to address insomnia and other symptoms reported by the participants. The study concluded that sleep activity and sleep quality significantly improved following 5 weeks of individualized acupuncture. (Phillips KD, Skelton WD)

Acupuncture is also recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in treating a wide range of conditions, relieving pain and promoting good health.

The Touch Research Institute of the University of Miami has conducted numerous studies on the various benefits of massage therapy and its effects on a large spectrum of individuals.

The first study, in 1996, involved 29 HIV-positive men and showed that a majority receiving massage had improvement in immune system function, both in the number of natural killer cells and in the activity of those cells. As a result of this evidence that massage therapy can build the immune system, another two studies followed.

The second study was done on nine healthy female medical students in the middle of exam period. The students report reduced anxiety and blood samples taken before and after massage showed that five had a substantial increase in white blood cell numbers and in the activity of natural killer cells.

Researchers and scientists cannot entirely agree on how massage therapy improves immune system function, but there are many theories. Michael Ruff, an immunologist and professor at Georgetown University Medical School, believes that massage works by reducing stress, and thereby alleviating the wear and tear inflicted by stress hormones, in particular, cortisol. One previous study showed that 80% of illness is stress-induced, so it stands to reason that if massage therapy can reduce stress, it can also improve the body's defence system against illness.