AIDS/HIV and Medical Cannabis
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that, as the immune system is progressively destroyed, can develop into acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). There are two species of Lentivirus (a subgroup of retrovirus) that causes HIV infection. HIV infects helper T cells (specifically CD4+ T cells, which can create HIV “reservoirs” that render the infection incurable at the moment), macrophages and dendritic cells.
Potential Efficacy / Quality of Evidence (Low, Average, High) of Medical Marijuana for AIDS/HIV
Cannabinoids, Terpenes/Terpenoids, Strains and Ratios May Help
1:1; high THC may also help for pain.
Medical Cannabis Pros
CBD may inhibit growth of certain types of herpes virus, which can help if an AIDS sufferer has multiple infections.
Cannabis may control inflammation in those with AIDS/HIV, and may even slow down the progression of HIV to some extent.
Beat nausea and vomiting.
Improve the mood and reduce both fatigue and insomnia, depending on the cannabinoids needed and desired.
HIV/AIDS sufferers may suffer from both muscle pain and neuropathic pain, and both THC and CBD may help.
Medical Cannabis Cons
Cannabis that isn’t well grown may contain pathogens that cause an infection.
“Dry” or “cotton” mouth may be exacerbated by cannabis use.
Cannabinoids may further dampen the immune system.
Cannabis smoke may irritate the throat and lungs, and recovering from such injuries take longer with AIDS/HIV.
More About the Condition
Approximately 1.2 million people were living with HIV in the US in 2013. HIV is most often spread via unprotected sex, but contaminated blood transfusions, needle sharing, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding are other ways of being infected by HIV. “AIDS” is a term usually applied to when HIV is in its late stage and has developed into it final form.
Whilst the treatments we have created to treat HIV/AIDS have proven to be quite effective, not everyone can tolerate all of them, and even if a person can, the side-effects of these medications can prove to be debilitating. Cachexia (wasting syndrome, or sudden weight loss), nausea, peripheral neuropathy and joint and muscle pain are not only side-effects of the disease, but some of the medications as well. Cannabis could help with all of these symptoms.
Nowadays, treating HIV/AIDS is not as daunting a prospect as it was when it was first discovered. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and medications such as non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) and nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) such as zidovudine, tenofovir, lamivudine and emtricitabine. Protease inhibitors (PIs), integrase inhibitors (IAs) help slow the progression of AIDS/HIV significantly.
Quotes from Experts
“Heavy cannabis users had decreased frequencies of human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR+CD38+CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell frequencies, compared to frequencies of these cells in non-cannabis-using individuals. Heavy cannabis users had decreased frequencies of intermediate and nonclassical monocyte subsets, as well as decreased frequencies of interleukin 23- and tumor necrosis factor-α-producing antigen-presenting cells.
While the clinical implications are unclear, our findings suggest that cannabis use is associated with a potentially beneficial reduction in systemic inflammation and immune activation in the context of antiretroviral-treated HIV infection.” Source: Manuzak JA, Gott TM, Kirkwood JS, Coronado E, Hensley-McBain T, Miller C, Cheu RK, Collier AC, Funderburg NT, Martin JN, Wu MC, Isoherranen N, Hunt PW, Klatt NR. ‘Heavy Cannabis Use Associated With Reduction in Activated and Inflammatory Immune Cell Frequencies in Antiretroviral Therapy-Treated Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Individuals.‘ Clin Infect Dis. 2018 Jun 1;66(12):1872-1882. doi: 10.1093/cid/cix1116. PMID: 29471387; PMCID: PMC6248381.
Case Studies – Patient Stories