AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and is associated with herpes viruses and cytomegalovirus.  The syndrome is made up of multiple infections and malignancies due to extensive damage to the immune system and is defined as the presence of the antibody HIV and less than 200 CD4 cells.  CD4 are lymphocytes and HIV targets them and then genetically propagates itself.  The lymphatic system is the primary area of operation for the virus, which can destroy the immune system within two to ten years or more.

The human immune system fights HIV replication with a massive response, but over time this surge declines and the viral impact, along with progressive immunosuppressant, increases, leaving the individual open to multiple infections and disease. Treatments include antiviral medications that interrupt the replication of the virus, but HIV mutates and resistance develops.

Then opportunistic infections appear.  This progression has led researchers to look at multidisciplinary approaches to manage the complications associated with HIV/AIDS. AIDS consists of an array of different infections, malignancies, immune dysfunctions, and physiologic changes and is manifested differently in each individual.  Women tend to progress more quickly in the disease process, possibly due to hormonal factors, and why the disease manifests differently in individuals remains unclear.

In addition, the immune response itself contributes to the problem—it can cause a lymphocyte response to the virus and create blockages within the micro vascular system.  Seepage of lipids into the bloodstream from these damaged cells also contributes to the occlusion (blockage) and rupture of vessels within the brain, internal organs, and peripheral circulatory system.

AIDS affects multiple systems and requires a multidisciplinary approach in treatment.  It is also a condition that shows the many possible mechanisms of action of HBOT. The complex and pervasive nature of the condition allows for HBOT in all its known mechanisms of action.

Clinicians such as Reillo claim that HBOT restores immune system function, enhances the body’s ability to fight infections, directly destroys microorganisms that the immunosuppresssed body cannot cope with, and treats other complications.  Historically, many infections and complications effectively treated with HBOT have been associated with other disorders that suppress the immune system such as cancer and leukemia, or that affect the cardiovascular system like diabetes.  Research has also shown the effectiveness of HBOT in HIV and herpetic infections.

“HBOT has been used as a primary and complementary or adjunctive therapy in the management of immunologic, vascular, and neurologic, and infectious diseases.  Many of these symptoms and manifestations are evident in other diseases and underlying diseases such as diabetes, MS, and cardiovascular disease.”

“In 1990, HBOT was use among patients with late-stage AIDS, whose life expectancy at the time was two years. Now, six years later, more than half of this original group is alive, and alive without oral antiviral therapy.”68

Research shows that HBOT has antiviral effects, resulting in long-term reduction of the virus without mutation.  HBOT may also be used in AIDS management to reduce liver toxicity associated with these potent drugs and to help manage the neurovascular and circulatory symptoms resultant to the underlying viruses.

HBOT has been shown to help alleviate the chronic fatigue associated with this syndrome, and to decrease Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF), which increases with the progression of HIV.  Oxidative compounds react with particular sections in the structure of the HIV amino acid, rendering it inactive.

Life Force Hyperbaric Medical Clinic conducted a series of ex vivo (outside the body) experiments at Maryland Medical Laboratory.  The results showed that pre-exposing target cells (cells before exposure to HIV) to HBOT for 45 minutes appeared to make the target cells more resistant to subsequent HIV infection.  Target cells exposed to HBOT are protected against HIV binding by this oxidative effect.

Within the body, HBOT decreased HIV viral levels in the plasma of infected patients, even on a long-term basis in the absence of other antiviral therapy. Clinically, patients have remained free of opportunistic infections, have had relief of chronic fatigue and have maintained body weight.

Theoretically, HBOT reduces HIV by binding with amino acids and altering their chemical composition, rendering them inert.  It provides a protective effect around cells that would normally be vulnerable to the virus by reducing the virus’ ability to penetrate the cell.

HBOT decreased viremia and is not toxic to the individual (unlike many of the pharmaceuticals used). HBOT stimulates the lymphocytic responses to increase macrophage activity.  The basis for HBOT is preventing and treating neurovascular complications, maintaining health and body weight, and enhancing synergy with pharmaceuticals.

HIV causes acute dyslipidemia (high blood cholesterol), hypertriglyceridemia (high triglyceride levels), and lymphocytic responses to damaged, infected endothelial cells, resulting in acute microvascular and macrovascular peripheral vascular insufficiency.  This results in peripheral neuropathy and microvascular infarctions in the brain.  The manifest dysfunction in the endothelial tissues is the same as in the diabetic patient.  Atherosclerosis occurs as leukocyte adhesion proteins damage microvascular cells.  Plaque forms, secondary to the lymphocytic response to damaged vessels and lipid accumulation.

Symptoms of this condition include fatigue, decreased mobility, memory and concentration problems, pain, coolness and reddening of the extremities, and decreased muscle response, hypoxia, pareathesia, hyperesthesia and cachexia.

67M. Reillo, (1997). AIDS under pressure:  Hyperbaric medicine in the management of HIV disease. Seattle: Hogrefe & Huber.
68Ibid., Introduction.