“HIV” is the acronym for “human immunodeficiency virus.” It is a disease that attacks the immune system of the body, in particular, the CD4 cells, also known as T cells. These cells help the immune system fight off infections. For that reason, someone with HIV is likely to have other health complications.
South Africa has the biggest and highest profile HIV epidemic in the world, with an estimated 7 million people living with HIV in 2015. In the same year, there were 380,000 new infections while 180,000 South Africans died from AIDS-related illnesses.
South Africa has the largest antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme globally and these efforts have been largely financed from its own domestic resources. The country now invests more than $1.5 billion (R21 billion) annually to run its HIV and AIDS programmes. However, HIV prevalence remains high (19.2%) among the general population, although it varies markedly between regions. For example, HIV prevalence is almost 40% in Kwazulu Natal compared with 18% in Northern Cape and Western Cape.
There is no cure for HIV, but there are various forms of treatment to control it. The most common way in modern medicine is to use antiretroviral therapy. When taken properly, this medication can lower the chances of spreading the disease and can increase the likelihood of the patient having a long life.
When not treated, HIV can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Once a person has AIDS, they can never get rid of it. AIDS is the final phase of the HIV infection — not everyone who contracts HIV will get AIDS, but everyone with AIDS has HIV.
AIDS occurs when the immune system is damaged, and opportunistic infections are a significant threat to your body. In other words, a person with AIDS has about three years left to live with treatment, or one year without treatment.
The National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine indicated that nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety each could be treated by medical cannabis. Each of these symptoms is also related to those undergoing chemotherapy for HIV/AIDS. People with HIV require a much larger number calories to maintain their weight. Also, in the final stage of HIV where the body succumbs to the disease and develops into AIDs, there is the most accelerated weight loss. In this stage the disease is accompanied by extreme fever, fatigue, diarrhoea, pneumonia and depression.
In February 2007 the medical journal Neurology published a study which suggested that medical cannabis had reduced chronic pain with great efficiency in AIDs patients and had little to no side effects.
That same year, researchers at San Francisco General Hospital and the University of California’s Pain Clinical Research Center found that cannabis reduced neuropathic pain by 34 percent. These results was comparable to pharmaceuticals currently used to treat neuropathy. This finding was validated in a 2008 study from the University of California.
The nausea and vomiting associated with HIV/AIDS and the medications used to treat these symptoms are linked to the enteric nervous system, which controls the gastrointestinal tract. Cannabinoids act on receptors in the enteric nervous system to ameliorate symptoms. While inhaled cannabis may be more effective in combating neuropathic pain, tinctures appears to be most effective in managing nausea, vomiting, pain, fatigue and loss of appetite.
CBD and THC tinctures can have a strong effect on many of the symptoms of the disease. For example, issues such as weight loss, vomiting, pain and nausea can all be treated with CBD and THC. This helps patients maintain or restore their weight, which keeps the essential nutrients in their bodies while coping with pain effectively. Other symptoms of HIV can include fatigue which THCA can assist with. Once the disease progresses to AIDS, some symptoms could include memory disorders and depression which CBD and THCA are recommended tinctures to use. Often people with HIV and AIDS suffer from sleeping disorders which CBN will be the recommended cannabinoid to help the patient rest and sleep well. These symptoms are all known to be relieved by medical cannabis, making it a useful medicine for someone who has HIV. There is also some evidence to show that marijuana might actually slow the replication of HIV. This opens the door to enormous possibilities, beyond just treating the symptoms of having HIV or AIDS.
Medical cannabis’ ability to relieve many of these HIV symptoms is well-known and it is widely accepted that this can be a useful way to medicate these symptoms without having the adverse side effects of over-the-counter or even prescription drugs. While the side effects of HIV and AIDS treatments can impinge on one’s life quality, studies have shown that medical marijuana can help make the adverse effects more manageable. HIV positive patients consuming medical cannabis have reported significant improvements in appetite, muscle pain levels, nausea, anxiety, depression and skin tingling.