By Faye Martins
What could be more stressful for an individual than knowing with utmost certainty that a disease is slowly but surely destroying them from the inside out, every second of every day? That’s the painful reality many people with chronic diseases face, including sufferers of HIV and AIDS. Unlike cancer, HIV is an incurable disease at this point, and we are many years from seeing a cure. Without hope to cling to, many who have HIV fall into despair.
What if there was a simple treatment that could slow the progression of this disease? And what if this treatment was free and easily accessible for anyone interested in giving it a try?
A groundbreaking study at UCLA proves that there is such a thing available to HIV patients today. The study aimed to measure the effectiveness of meditation on promoting the health of CD4+ T lymphocytes. HIV slowly destroys the CD4+ T lymphocytes until they no longer function, leading to a lack of essential immunity. The CD4+ T lymphocytes are basically the brain of the immune system and are the force that coordinates immune activity. Without them, there is no immune defense.
CD4+ T cells have another destroying enemy in addition to the HIV virus itself and that enemy is stress. Stress causes rapid acceleration of CD4+ T cell deterioration and stress is prevalent in HIV patients. How could it not be? HIV and the stress it causes work hand in hand to destroy their host.
During the study, participants engaged in daily mindfulness meditation and their results were recorded over an 8 week period. At the end of those 8 weeks, the meditating group reported no loss of CD4+ T lymphocytes at all. These results were then compared to those from a control group, who reported significant declines in CD4+ T cell counts. This was to be expected due to the HIV virus.
Further research was done which proved that the positive impact was indeed from the meditation and not from other factors such as medication. In addition, the same level of CD4+ T cell protection from meditation extended to those who were taking antiretroviral medications, making it an ideal complementary therapy. The painful irony of HIV medications is that they cause some very unpleasant side effects, including increased blood pressure and stress levels. Meditation counters that, which makes it a very valuable addition to other HIV therapies.
Another important finding was that the protective buffer increased right along with meditation times. To put it simply, the more an individual meditated, the more powerful the protective buffer.
With these findings in mind, it is safe to say that meditation can slow the progression of the HIV virus dramatically in addition to improving the overall quality of life through the psychological benefit of lowered levels of stress.
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