Acupuncture for symptom relief in HIV-positive adults: lessons learned from a pilot study

Altern Ther Health Med. 2000 Sep;6(5):33-42.


Context: Although acupuncture is used by many people with HIV disease as a complementary treatment to Western medicine, there is a lack of scientifically sound research on patient responses and outcomes.

Objective: To explore the feasibility of conducting a larger study investigating the efficacy of acupuncture on symptom distress, psychological distress, and quality of life in HIV-infected individuals.

Design: This pilot study used a block randomization, single-blinded design.

Setting: Yale University General Clinical Research Center.

Participants: Eleven HIV-positive participants.

Intervention: Patients were grouped by CD4 cell counts and received acupuncture treatments twice each week for 3 weeks. The experimental group received a protocol with 2 components: one tailored to the individual's symptoms and a second standardized component treatment designed to promote health and immune function. The control-needling group received a standardized treatment involving stimulation of acupuncture points identified as "clinically irrelevant" in treating the conditions under investigation (i.e., acupuncture points that have consistently not been cited as helpful for symptoms of relevant conditions or immune disorders).

Main outcome measures: The HIV-Symptom List was administered to gather data on symptom distress, the Brief Symptom Inventory was used to gather data on psychological distress, and the Functional Assessment of HIV Infection was administered to collect data on quality of life.

Results: Preliminary data from small numbers of participants showed trends toward improvement in symptoms and quality of life.

Conclusions: A follow-up pilot study will focus on the use of acupuncture to relieve gastrointestinal symptoms in people with HIV.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • HIV Infections / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome