AN OVERVIEW OF FIAR
The Foundation for Integrative AIDS Research (FIAR) addresses those needs. Normally, one thinks of universities, companies and government agencies of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) coordinating and conducting clinical studies. Still, many important questions that affect the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C remain unanswered. As the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) and other organizations have filled the gap left by the NIH in the investigation of many pharmaceutical drugs along with providing information on those interventions, FIAR will endeavor to fill some of the gaps on interventions that have received less attention, even though they are in widespread use.
Specifically, these interventions are defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as dietary supplements. These include ingested substances that are not considered foods or drugs. The types of substances include vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, single or mixed amino acids, protein supplements (powders and drinks) and herbs used other than for culinary purposes.
Of course, treatment is not limited to consumed items. Other interventions include body work, acupuncture, exercise, energy work, intercession at a distance and other approaches. Where such a modality is commonly used and represents an important clinical question that must be addressed, FIAR will endeavor to raise funds and coordinate a methodologically sound clinical study.
FIAR's selection of clinical questions to be addressed is drawn first from the infected and affected community. Such a grassroots based approach generates the questions that will help to enhance a sense of cooperation and comradeship between people living with disease and caretakers, practitioners and specialists. This aspect helps to encourage mutual respect rather than authoritarianism. On an economic level, less expensive interventions that show benefit may help to alleviate cost burdens to national healthcare systems while providing tools for arguing for the expansion of state Medicaid formularies to assure access for those who could not otherwise afford such interventions. By contrast, studies that show little benefit will also provide important information to help guide treatment choices and what are very often out-of-pocket expenses.
For example, the amino acid N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is in widespread use by people living with HIV. The market has available many different brands. Independent clinical laboratories will be provided samples to evaluate products to establish their purity: whether it contains any common contaminants (mold, yeast, bacteria, heavy metals). Based on funding availability, a sample from two or three batches from selected companies would be evaluated. Organizaions such as ConsumerLab are also consulted.
Then the substance would be evaluated for its potency. In the case of NAC, it is a relatively simple matter to evaluate whether the one constituent is indeed the reduced form of the amino acid. Unscrupulous vendors may sell products which contain very little of the advertised substance. However, even reliable vendors may have product that has deteriorated in quality (for example, NAC tends to oxidize). An acceptable range for some oxidation will be determined.
In the case of herbs, the procedure is similar, but the difficulty in evaluating potency is somewhat enhanced. Many herbs have a "signature" of a certain compounds, identifiable by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and other assays. Others are standardized to a specific chemical (e.g., silymarin compounds in milk thistle, Silybum marianum).
FIAR, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, does not accept pharmaceutical or nutriceutical industry funding and relies upon your generosity to continue its efforts.