Forty three-year-old Nishat (name changed) from Amravati was tired of popping pills and checking his CD 4 count to test what stage the HIV disease was at. “Of course the medicines are helping, but exposure to fresh air, a planned diet with soups, salads, fruits and yoga has helped me tremendously,” says Nishat, who has just completed a six-month stay at the sanatorium set up by National Institute of Naturopathy at the hill station of Panchgani.
A unique concept mooted by the Director of NIN, an autonomous body under the government’s department of Ayurveda, Yoga, Siddha, Homoeopathy and Unani (AYUSH), Dr Babu Joseph, the sanatorium for immune deficiency disorders is the first in the country, and aims at improving the quality of life of HIV positive persons by introducing them to a naturopathic and yogic lifestyle.
HIV positive persons are given alkaline juice remedies, and nourishing meals that include sprouts, fruit and soup, and are exposed to yoga sessions. “I have been taking medicines for some time now, ever since my CD 4 count fell to 160. For the last six months, I feel I have got a new kind of energy,” Nishat says.
The change in lifestyle has made 45-year-old Raman (name changed) from Yavatmal, who has been staying at the centre for a fortnight now, feel a lot happier. “I already feel a positive change. A couple of months ago, my CD 4 count (which indicates the stage of the disease and helps tell how strong one’s immune system is ) was 305. Now it has gone up to 399, he says, adding that he was also on anti-retroviral treatment.
A couple in their twenties from Osmanabad said they were keen to experience the naturopathy treatment. “We read about the sanatorium in an advertisement, and decided to come here. We will stay for six months and hope our CD 4 count increases,” they said.
Dr Atulya C G, naturopathy practitioner, stays at the sanatorium which presently has 17 inmates. He said that the sanatorium receives calls directly from interested HIV positive persons. So far, 101 persons have stayed for durations ranging from a fortnight to as long as a year, said Dr Babu Joseph.
“We do not claim to cure HIV, but the aim is to improve the quality of life of these persons,” Joseph said. The sanatorium is located at a bungalow in Panchgani, given at a nominal rent to the NIN by a wellwisher. “We have set up wards for men and women, each with nine beds. While NGOs have been requested to send HIV positive persons, it is often patients, many of whom are economically disadvantaged, who come on their own here,” he added.
Twelve-year-old Ravi (name changed) is affectionately called “Don” by the inmates of the sanatorium. He is among the eight HIV positive children sent for a 10-day stay by Deep Griha Society, a city-based NGO. “I am so happy here,” he laughs while running around with his friends. Joseph reiterates, “Naturopathy does not cure HIV but we have helped people with HIV live their life positively.”