The scientific community is just beginning to uncover how to treat HIV/AIDS symptoms and side effects with cannabis. So far, we know that marijuana can alleviate symptoms specific to the virus and the side-effects of HIV/AIDs medications. But there is also promising research showing that cannabis can slow the virus’ progression.
Here is an overview of cannabis’ manifold benefits for managing the symptoms of HIV/AIDS, diminishing drug side effects, and inhibiting this deadly virus.
What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV, the acronym for human immunodeficiency virus, affects the immune system. One typically contracts HIV sexually, often from blood, semen or vaginal fluid. A mother can also transmit HIV/AIDS to her child during pregnancy.
After infection, the virus spreads throughout the immune system’s CD4 cells, also known as T cells. These cells then produce more infected cells. Over time, the body becomes more susceptible to disease as the number of infected, and therefore less efficient at disease prevention, T cells increases.
AIDS is the final stage (of three) in HIV infection. A person with AIDs is extremely vulnerable to illness because HIV has severely impaired their immune system. It typically takes ten years for someone with untreated HIV to progress to the second stage of infection, Chronic HIV infection. At the third stage of untreated HIV, AIDs, the life expectancy is three years.
How Many People Have HIV/AIDS?
According to UNAIDS, 36.7 million people were affected with HIV/AIDS in 2016. In the US, 74 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS are men.
Today, more people than ever live with HIV/AIDS due to the inaccessibility of treatment.
The number of people living with HIV/AIDS – and coping with HIV/AIDS medication side effects, make the question of how to treat HIV/AIDS symptoms and side effects with cannabis a pressing issue.
Treatment For HIV/AIDS
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, through medication known as antiretroviral therapy (ART) stops the virus’ progression. With the help of this new treatment, implemented in the late 1990s, the life expectancy for those with the virus who treat their condition with ART is almost that of non-infected people.
Yet far from everyone has access to antiretroviral therapy. UNAIDS estimates that 47 percent of people with HIV/AIDS remain untreated.
This translates to a painful, and eventually life-threatening condition. Even for those with access to medication, the virus often ensures a lifetime of difficult symptoms and side-effects.
Using Cannabis To Manage Symptoms
Many people with HIV/AIDS use marijuana to cope with their symptoms. We’ve explored cannabis’ incredible effect on seizures, postpartum depression, and a host of other medical conditions.
One of the most medically versatile substances, cannabis can effectively treat the most common HIV side-effects and symptoms: weight loss, depression, anxiety, nausea and loss of appetite.
In fact, noted activist Dennis Peron got his start in medical marijuana activism at the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. His partner and some of his friends contracted the virus. And they found that cannabis was the best treatment to alleviate their suffering.
Marijuana is so successful in managing these symptoms that 27 percent of people with HIV/AIDS reported using it in a 2005 survey. Thirteen years later, marijuana stigma is decreasing, accessing the herb has never been easier, and awareness of medical marijuana’s benefits is on the rise.
Undoubtedly, more HIV/AIDS patients than ever are turning towards one of nature’s best medicines.
Due to its immediate efficacy, smoking is a great way to manage these symptoms and side effects. Plus, it’s easier to gauge how much you’ll need at the moment.
Marijuana Can Potentially Slow Progression
Still wondering how to treat HIV/AIDS symptoms and side effects with cannabis? Scientists are discovering uses for marijuana that go beyond smoking.
Research shows that marijuana could be used in tandem with antiretroviral therapy to treat HIV/AIDS. A study published in AIDS research and Human Retroviruses in 2014 discovered that THC produced more CD4 and CD8 (disease-fighting cells) in monkeys’ immune systems.
These findings are especially significant since the area of the lymphatic system that THC protected is critical to the virus’ progression.
Another study, published by New York City’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine and written up in HIV Plus Magazine discovered another use for cannabis.
By introducing cannabinoids in the body, scientists prevented HIV from communicating with the receptors on immune cells. This reduced the number of infected cells from 30 to 60 percent.
By interrupting the process by which HIV infects the body’s cells with cannabinoids, scientists greatly slowed the virus’ progression.
Both these studies, among others, suggest incredible treatments in the future.
Final Hit: How To Treat HIV/AIDS Symptoms and Side Effects With Cannabis
Not only is cannabis an effective and commonplace treatment for HIV/AIDS symptoms and side effects, but promising research demonstrates that cannabis can stop HIV’s progression. As put forth by HIV Plus Magazine, an antiviral medication would be potent and cost-effective.
Considering the millions of people coping with the difficult side-effects of treatment or the dangerous consequences of going without it, care that included cannabis would be a momentous breakthrough for modern medicine.
To prevent contracting HIV, practice safer sex, get tested regularly and avoid sharing needles or syringes. There is also a daily medication, Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) that you can take to further reduce your risk of infection.
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