HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that eventually leads to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome; it is also called advanced HIV infection or late-stage HIV). AIDS develops as a direct result of HIV and is a set of advanced symptoms and illnesses. Nowadays in developed countries, due to the innumerable advances in medicine and prescription medications, HIV rarely develops quickly into full-blown AIDS. Many HIV/AIDS sufferers have turned to medical marijuana to treat the many symptoms of the virus and cope with the side effects of the antiviral drugs used to treat the condition.

Marijuana to Treat the Symptoms of HIV/AIDS

Individuals who suffer from HIV and AIDS have a multitude of symptoms. Marijuana has proven beneficial in treating many of the virus’s unpleasant symptoms.

Here is just a brief list of the main symptoms of HIV/AIDS that are relieved by cannabis:

  • Pain
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Depression

The Start of HIV and AIDS

HIV and AIDS first emerged in the late 1980s. At that time, the virus became a major contributor of death and illness in otherwise young and healthy individuals. Early HIV medications were ineffective at preventing AIDS from developing. Many of the prescribed medications also had debilitating side effects.

Progression of HIV to AIDS

HIV sufferers faced the rapid progression towards AIDS as high-risk illnesses developed that included AIDS dementia, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and HIV wasting syndrome. Many HIV/AIDS sufferers found medical marijuana beneficial in spurring their appetite to combat the inevitable weight loss brought on by the AIDS-related illnesses and prescription medications.

Marinol and Marijuana to Treat HIV and AIDS

At the time, the HIV/AIDS epidemic first started, medical marijuana remained illegal throughout the U.S. so many users opted to take the synthetic form of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) known as Marinol (dronabinol) to treat the many aspects of the virus. However, other sufferers, despite the legalities opted to use the plant itself. In those early days, extraordinarily little research was done to study how effective the whole plant was at treating the virus’s side effects. However, Marinol became well-established as an effective way to spur appetite and stabilize weight.

HIV and Cannabis

HIV medications often cause a condition known as peripheral neuropathy. The disorder causes the exterior sheath of the body’s nerve cells to become stripped away. The sufferer experiences pain that feels like a pins and needles sensation. Unfortunately, the condition advances and often becomes severely painful so that the individual cannot even walk and the feel of anything on their body such as bed sheets becomes unbearable. Medical marijuana appears to work as an analgesic and relieve the pain. Many people experience a significant reduction in pain.

Does Marijuana Slow HIV?

Some researchers believe that marijuana may slow the progression of the disease. In a study undertaken by the Louisiana State University, it was found that daily doses of THC reduced the viral activity in HIV sufferers. Monkeys infected with SIV (a simian form of HIV) had far better survival rates when given daily doses of THC. The primates also suffered far less weight loss. When given THC for 17 months, the clinical trials showed a significant decrease in damage to the immune tissues of the gut which is a primary site of HIV infection. The HIV virus’s progression was significantly slowed, and a healthy immune response restored and maintained.

If you suffer from HIV or AIDS, then the use of medical marijuana may be beneficial. You should discuss your health condition and the possible use of cannabis as an addition to your treatment plan with your physician.