HIV/AIDS and Medical Marijuana Treatment​

HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, destroying the CD4 cells when a certain number of these cells are destroyed, the body becomes unable to fight infections or diseases. Why does this happen? Because CD4 cells are responsible for helping your immune system fight off infections. If HIV is not treated, it can become acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.

There are three stages of HIV, the first is Acute HIV Infection, the second stage is called clinical latency and the third is AIDS. People 2-4 weeks after infection may present swollen glands and a terrible flu. Other symptoms will only appear after months or even years. The easiest way to get HIV is through unprotected sex with an infected person. Blood contact and sharing drug needles are also a way to spread the virus. During pregnancy or childbirth, the baby can get the infection as well.

There is no cure for HIV, but there are various medicines capable of fighting both HIV infection and the cancers that can come along. HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence and people can live with the virus for many years.

Cannabis is known for helping patients with HIV/AIDS treating their symptoms like appetite loss, nausea, anxiety, depression etc. In the U.S., one in every three patients use cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of HIV/AIDS and the side effects of the medications to fight the virus. A study made in 2003 reported that more than 60% of the patients with the virus self-identify themselves as cannabis users. Patients who use cannabis therapeutically are also three times more likely to get their antiretroviral therapy regimens than patients who don’t use cannabis.

A study published in Clinical Nursing Research by SAGE made with 775 participants pointed out that people with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. are more likely to use cannabis than those in Kenya, South Africa, and Porto Rico. All the participants that used marijuana said that it is effective for the majority of symptoms. There were no differences between the patients between the participant’s cannabis users and no users in the race, age, education level, income adequacy, having AIDS, taking ARV medications or taking ARV medications for years. However, there was a difference, the patients who used marijuana had HIV for a longer time and were more likely to have other conditions.

Clinical trial data pointed that patients who inhaled cannabis four times a day have experienced “substantial… increases in food intake… with little evidence of discomfort and no impairment of cognitive performance”. Other researchers reported that compared to a placebo, cannabis reduced patient’s pain by 34% and concluded: “Smoked cannabis was well tolerated and effectively relieved chronic neuropathic pain from HIV-associated neuropathy similar to oral drugs used for chronic neuropathic pain.” Researchers at the University of California have reported similar findings.

Another study made in animal models with delta-9-THC administration showed decreased mortality and ameliorated disease progression. Some experts believe that “marijuana represents another treatment option in health management” of patients with HIV/AIDS and that cannabinoids “could potentially be used in tandem with existing antiretroviral drugs, opening the door to the generation of new drug therapies for HIV/AIDS.