What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus, known as HIV, is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. The disease progresses as the virus attacks certain white blood cells, called T cells, and the body’s immune system becomes compromised. Spread through specific body fluids, HIV makes the person more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers. Without treatment, HIV advances until it becomes AIDS—the most serious phase of HIV.
Medical Marijuana to Manage HIV Side Effects
It is believed that cognitive function decreases in many of those with HIV in part because the immune system is constantly being tasked with fighting off the disease, causing chronic inflammation in the brain. However, the anti-inflammatory properties of medical marijuana have been found to potentially slow the process of mental decline for up to 50% of HIV patients, according to a 2017 study out of Michigan State University. Norbert Kaminski, author of the study, further reported that patients who did not use medical marijuana had a very high level of inflammatory cells compared to those who did use it, with levels closely resembling a healthy person not infected with HIV.
In addition, Mike Rizzo, co-author of the study, discovered that the compounds in medical marijuana were able to act as anti-inflammatory agents:
“This decrease of cells could slow down, or maybe even stop, the inflammatory process, potentially helping patients maintain their cognitive function longer.”
Robert L. Cook, professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida, is currently conducting a five-year, $3.2 million study on medical marijuana in the treatment of HIV. “When it comes to cannabinoid’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (unlike traditional antiretrovirals),” he said, “we can control the virus mostly through medications and yet people with HIV still do age a bit more rapidly; they still get heart disease four to five years earlier, and a lot of people think that is due to chronic inflammation. So certainly, a product that helps control inflammation could help people live longer, happier lives.”
The information provided should not be used as a substitution for physician knowledge. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment with medicinal marijuana.