Monday, March 19, 2012

The AIDS Alphabet: U is for (Auto-)Urine Therapy

The AIDS Alphabet: U is for Auto-Urine Therapy

The question is: what would you be willing to do to stay alive? Would you drink your own urine?

Believe it or not, drinking urine, otherwise known as amaroli or auto-urine therapy is practice for quite a few people, not only individuals living with HIV/AIDS or any other life-threatening disease. Some offer a full list of health benefits related to drinking one's urine...

In the case of AIDS, especially in a time before the advent of the Lazarus-effect HAART medications, AIDS patients were willing to try anything, anything, to stay alive... including drinking their own urine.

What's like to drink your own urine? How does it taste? When should you drink it and how? Here's AIDS warrior and award-winning photographer Kurt Weston's experience with amaroli.

Hope the excerpt will answer some of your questions. For more answers, check out Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS.

As always, thanks for visiting here anytime and on 3/24 at the Rainbow Book Fair.

Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS


Excerpt from Chapter Four: Self-Reflections


During 1993 and 1994, while Kurt continued to monitor his SWAN [Surviving With AIDS Network] workshops in Chicago, people would attend for a while, and then some of them would just quit coming. They were either too sick to leave their homes or already dead. It was typical for those attending AIDS support groups to see individuals participating and talking to others during the meetings and then disappearing, like they’ve never existed. And it was very frightening for the rest of those attending and trying to survive the disease… Years later, this real-life aspect of AIDS support groups was forever immortalized in the Broadway musical—and later on movie—RENT.
    While the conventional medicine didn’t have much to offer at the time and the only treatment available was making them extremely sick and weak, people living with the virus were desperate to try pretty much anything that could remotely improve their quality of life, and they would listen to anybody who could possibly offer them a chance to survive. AZT was a first positive step toward finding an AIDS treatment, but not all patients could manage staying on the drug.
    A lot of them felt so sick while taking the medication that they quit caring about living. If the drug, which was supposed to keep them alive, made them feel so awful, what was the point of being alive in the first place. Some would rather be dead and end the suffering altogether.
    Other patients believed in a conspiracy theory, that the Big Pharma (the large network of drug companies) was trying to make money off AIDS patients and that the chemicals in the AIDS drugs were poisonous and doing them more harm than good. So a lot of infected people refused to take the AZT or go through chemotherapy. They attempted a more natural approach to fighting their AIDS.
    A lot of those attending SWAN workshops also became extremely interested in alternative treatments. Therefore, a lot of alternative medical practitioners showed up at SWAN meetings to inform the patients of other ways they could fight the virus.
    “There’s a lot of fakery in the world of alternative treatments,” Weston explains. “And some practitioners were preying on people with life threatening, terminal illnesses. [But] if some [medical] doctor came to you and said that you were gonna die because you had this [disease] and there was nothing available to help you, and then somebody else came and said ‘I know something that they don’t know. I’ve got this thing that could help you.’ Wouldn’t you be tempted to try it?”
    During the SWAN meetings alternative medical practitioners showed patients how to keep themselves healthy using therapeutic nutrients, Chinese herbs, and acupuncture. They also discussed very extreme therapies like Ozone therapy, auto-urine therapy or the benefits of various plant extracts and enzymes. That way, patients could get a better understanding of the various possibilities available—other than just chemicals—to treat their HIV. That way, AIDS patients could become more proactive fighting their disease.
    Alternative treatments were very expensive and patients who wanted to try them couldn’t afford to try every one of these treatments. Most of the patients were on disability and didn’t have much money to spend on experimentation, even on those who could potentially extend their lives. In addition, it would have been very time-consuming, plainly not smart and simply not possible for each individual in the SWAN group to experiment with every one of the available alternative treatments.
    So, SWAN participants decided to take turns, and then get together and share what worked and what didn’t work. If it worked, than it was worth the money. If not, then the others didn’t have to give it another thought.
    Each member of the SWAN group volunteered to try various things. For example, one person would take herbs, another would attend an acupuncture session or try urine therapy, while yet another individual would go through a session of Ozone therapy or take yoga classes or massage therapy sessions. And regardless of their experiences, either if they found them helpful, successful or just plain gross, participants would come back to the following SWAN meeting to discuss and share their trials and thoughts with the rest of the group.
    Weston himself has tried some of the most extreme treatments. “I did try drinking urine,” the photographer confesses. “Because one of the Chinese medical practitioners said that some people got very good results from drinking their own urine… so I did that. And I don’t believe that it really did work, but I was willing to try anything.”

    Drinking one’s own urine is also known as auto-urine therapy or amaroli. Before being used as a treatment, amaroli began as a spiritual practice used by yogis of old times to purify their bodies in order to allow the consciousness to expand to its original, cosmic state. In present society, amaroli has re-emerged as an effective alternative therapy used worldwide.
    For internal use, individuals can drink from one to three glasses of their urine per day. Conditions and optimal use may vary if drinking the urine is done while fasting. Midstream urine should be sipped like tea. For external use, individuals can rub their urine on cuts and bruises.

    In the case of AIDS, the theory behind this “treatment” was that the urine contained dead viral fragments that, if re-ingested, could help the immune system, just like taking an attenuated virus and emulating one’s immune system to attack the virus.
    The whole concept made Kurt vomit. He describes the experience as “horrifying.” But on the other hand, the urine was free and he had nothing to lose.