HIV/AIDS Education in Traditional Indian Systems of Medicine


There are over 500 colleges within the Indian System of Medicine and Homeopathy (ISM & H) that includes Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH). Therapies from AYUSH are widely utilized throughout India for both acute and chronic illnesses and may be an important source of care for HIV-infected individuals. This qualitative study documents faculty perspectives within AYUSH institutions of higher learning to understand how the etiology, diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS taught within their curriculum. Thirty-three faculty and student informants from five AYUSH institutions in Pune and one College of Siddha in Chennai were interviewed from June 2009-August 2010. Topics included etiology, pathogenesis, diagnostics, treatment and management of HIV/AIDS within each system.

Thematic analysis revealed that although generally biomedical textbooks were used to provide the
background training on HIV/AIDS and diagnostics, the pathogenesis and symptomatology allowed the disease entity to fit into established disease concepts within the relevant AYUSH system. Each AYUSH system viewed HIV as an amalgam of conditions and abnormal lifestyles leading to the disease. In general, in AYUSH, there was greater reference to religion and a moral component in disease management and prevention. Faculty from Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha faculty stressed the need for positive health promotion through lifestyle changes in diet and adherence to healthful daily routines. AYUSH faculty believed in referring patients to biomedicine for antiretroviral therapy (ART), although indicated that alternative treatments may be provided in addition to ART.

There is no formal inclusion of AYUSH treatments within the national Indian HIV health policy,
yet AYUSH practitioners exceed that of medical doctors. Greater efforts are needed to identify areas of collaboration between experts in biomedicine and AYUSH medical systems in India.

Hong Shang