HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is short for human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

HIV” stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. To understand what that means:

  • HHuman – This particular virus can only infect human beings.
  • IImmunodeficiency – HIV weakens your immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. A “deficient” immune system can’t protect you.
  • VVirus – A virus can only reproduce itself by taking over a cell in the body of its host.

HIV is characterized by the attacking of the body’s T-cells, wherein the virus utilizes the T-cells to make copies of itself, ultimately destroying enough of these cells to weaken the immune system and render it unable to fight disease.

 

T Cell is a lymphocyte of a type produced or processed by the thymus gland and actively participating in the immune response.

 

The immune system can typically fight a virus and eliminate it from the body. In the case with HIV, the body is unable to rid itself of the virus. Continual destruction of the T-cells can ultimately result in AIDS, which is the final stage of HIV. Not everyone with HIV progresses to the stage of AIDS. The disease is highly contagious and transferred via bodily fluids including blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk.

Symptoms of HIV will typically appear 2-4 weeks following infection, and include flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, sore throat, rash and swollen glands. Following what many patients describe as the “worst flu ever”, the virus can enter what is known as a clinical latency stage, where the virus develops within the host with little or no symptoms.

“AIDS” stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. To understand what that means:

  • A – Acquired – AIDS is not something you inherit from your parents. You acquire AIDS after birth.
  • I – Immuno – Your body’s immune system includes all the organs and cells that work to fight off infection or disease.
  • D – Deficiency – You get AIDS when your immune system is “deficient,” or isn’t working the way it should.
  • S – Syndrome – A syndrome is a collection of symptoms and signs of disease. AIDS is a syndrome, rather than a single disease,  because it is a complex illness with a wide range of complications and symptoms.

As noted above, AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, and not everyone who has HIV advances to this stage. People at this stage of HIV disease have badly damaged immune systems, which put them at risk for opportunistic infections (OIs).

CDC estimates that 1,218,400 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection, including 156,300 (12.8%) who are unaware of their infection. Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, while the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable.

The Past

The emergence of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s marked a cultural turning point marred with discrimination and misunderstanding on a multitude of levels. While stereotyped as a disease affecting homosexual men for over a decade, it can be transmitted to any human who comes in contact with the virus.

There is no cure for HIV/AIDS.

There are numerous antiviral pharmaceutical treatments for the condition, including:

  • Zidovudine
  • Emtricitabine
  • Lamivudine
  • Delavirdine
  • Abacavir
  • Tenofovir
  • Efavirenz

These medications prevents human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cells from multiplying in your body.

The Plant

The most common cannabinoid used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS is THC. THC is known for its ability to stimulate the appetite, thus decreasing the significant weight loss associated with the condition. Emerging research on THC’s interaction with the CB2 receptor appears to document the slowing of the progression of the disease–a significant breakthrough that could keep individuals from developing full-blown AIDS.

 

For patients such as those with AIDS or who are undergoing chemotherapy and who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, nausea, and appetite loss, cannabinoid drugs might offer broad-spectrum relief not found in any other single medication. Research published in 2004 found that nearly one-quarter of AIDS patients were using cannabis. A majority reported relief of anxiety and/or depression and improved appetite, while nearly a third said it also increased pleasure and provided relief of pain. – Institute of Medicine

 

Beginning in the 1970s, a series of human clinical trials established cannabis’ ability to stimulate food intake and weight gain in healthy volunteers. In a randomized trial in AIDS patients, THC significantly improved appetite and nausea in comparison with placebo. There were also trends towards improved mood and weight gain. Unwanted effects were generally mild or moderate in intensity. The possible benefit of cannabis in AIDS made it one of the lead indications for such treatment in the judgment of the Institute of Medicine in their study.

A preliminary safety trial conducted at the University of California at San Francisco found that inhaled cannabis does not interfere with the effectiveness of protease inhibitors in patients suffering from HIV or AIDS. It also found that patients in the study who used cannabis gained weight.

Dronabinol (a.k.a. “Marinol” or oral THC) is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an anti-emetic and appetite stimulant for patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy or suffering from AIDS. The FDA approved the drug for this use in 1992 after several clinical trials determined it stimulated weight gain in HIV-infected patients. In one study, 70 percent of patients administered Marinol (oral THC) gained weight.

 

It is well recognized that Marinol’s oral route of administration hampers its effectiveness because of slow absorption and patients’ desire for more control over dosing. … In contrast, inhaled marijuana is rapidly absorbed. In a series of U.S. state studies in the 1980s, cancer patients given a choice between using inhaled marijuana and oral THC overwhelmingly chose cannabis. – Institute of Medicine

 

In 2006, the chief of Oncology at San Francisco General Hospital published a clinical study which demonstrated that smoked cannabis can effectively treat HIV associated painful neuropathy, and is comparable to other drugs on the market. 50 patients completed the study which involved 5 days of smoking 3 joints (3.56% THC) per day and recording pain scores. Over half of the patients found a 30% reduction in pain, and the first cannabis cigarette of each day reduced pain scores by over 70% on average. Unlike conventional therapies, no serious adverse effects were reported.

In the last few years, clinical studies on smoked cannabis for HIV neuropathy have produced even more promising results. A research team at UC Davis Medical Center conducted a double blind, placebo-controlled crossover study of 38 patients with HIV neuropathic pain. The participants smoked cannabis with a THC content of 7% or 3.5 % THC. They were scheduled for three 6-hour sessions, which were separated by at least 3 days. Their pain was significantly alleviated by cannabis and the side effects were well tolerated.

Similar results were obtained by researchers at UC San Diego with a study of 34 patients who were not responsive to other pain medication (i.e. opiates). Over the course of the study, participants received both cannabis (THC of 1-8%) and placebo (no THC) cigarettes, which were smoked four times daily for five days. The patients continued to use their regular pain medication during the whole study. The team found that 46 percent of the patients who completed the study gained pain relief from cannabis of more than 30 percent.

Basic research has also demonstrated that derivatives of the cannabis plant hold promise for for slowing the progression of HIV/AIDS. Researchers from Germany and Spain have investigated the effects of various cannabis extracts on the virus in vivo and found that certain extracts could inhibit HIV replication.[38] Upon further research, a non-cannabinoid component of cannabis called Denbinobin was demonstrated to be mostly responsible for the inhibition of HIV replication. Denbinobin was shown to directly interfere with a replication protein called NF-KB (NF-kappa B), which is considered a good target for HIV therapies because it contributes to a wide variety of cellular processes.

The Process

The smoking and vaporizing of THC-rich cannabis, as well as the ingestion of cannabis extract oils, edibles and tinctures have been reported successful by patients fighting HIV/AIDS.

Vaporizing or Vaping

If you don’t like the idea of smoke there is the option to vaporize. Vaporization does not use combustion to heat the medicine. Unfortunately there is some confusion out there about vaporizers. There are now hundreds of vaporizers to choose from. There are three basic types: pen, hand-help, and tabletop. The differences are in price, portability and size. Some vaporizers claim to be able to vaporize plant matter (flowers), wax and oils. Some can only do concentrates, some only oil. The most important difference is the method used to heat the medicine. There are basically two methods (with hybrids on the way)- conduction and convection.

True Vaporizing is done by convection, where air is heated, and in turn the hot air turns the medicine a to vapor which is then inhaled. Conduction Vaporizing happens when a hot element (metal plate, or bowl) touches the medicine. The medicine is placed directly in a metal or ceramic bowl or chamber that is heated which then heats the medicine and the smoke is inhaled. This is still combustion, and not truly vaporizing. This is closer to dabbing but with a much cooler heating element.

What’s Best for my Lungs?

The cleanest method to inhale medicine is true or convective vaporizing. It is better for your lungs since there is no burning or combustion.

Edibles

Edibles provide ways to eat or drink your medicine. Many medicated edibles and even bottled drinks are readily available at dispensaries. Be aware that most of the edibles at dispensaries are loaded with sugar and carbs. But basically what the edibles and drinks all contain are canna butter and/or canna oil. You can purchase these or easily make them at home to add to your own baked goods, snacks or even meals (especially if you are avoiding sugar or gluten).

Oils

Butane Hash Oil concentrate can be smoked, dabbed or vaporized. Marijuana can also be infused in more commonly used oils, such as olive oil. This is used in food to make medicated edibles.

Cannabis or Marinol?

Those committed to the prohibition on cannabis frequently cite Marinol, a Schedule III drug, as the legal means to obtain the benefits of cannabis. However, Marinol, which is a synthetic form of THC, does not deliver the same therapeutic benefits as the natural herb, which contains more than 100 cannabinoids in addition to THC. Recent research conducted by GW Pharmaceuticals in Great Britain has shown that Marinol is simply not as effective for pain management as the whole plant; a balance of cannabinoids, specifically CBC and CBD with THC, is what helps patients most.

In fact, Marinol is not labeled for pain, only appetite stimulation and nausea control. THC and other cannabinoids have been shown to be effective in controlling nausea, but many severely nauseated patients experience difficulty in swallowing and keeping a pill down, a problem avoided by use of inhaled cannabis, which decades of studies have shown to be highly effective for treating nausea.

The Patient

The research associated with the treatment of HIV/AIDS with cannabis has typically been limited to appetite stimulation and the prevention of weight loss common with the condition, alongside decreased pain and nausea, and an overall improvement in the quality of life while combatting the debilitating emotional and physical effects of the condition. While these are significant contributions, there is emerging research that suggests the interaction goes beyond the treatment of symptoms and into the realm of slowing the virus’ progression.

In 2014 research conducted at Louisiana State University, a 17-month study on monkeys receiving a daily dose of THC revealed decreased damage to the immune tissue in the stomach, where the infection is known to occur. In the words of Dr. Patricia Molina, “It adds to the picture and it builds a little bit more information around the potential mechanisms that might be playing a role in the modulation of the infection.” She further elaborated:

 

When we started the study, we thought it was going to increase the viral load, we thought it was going to decrease lymphocyte counts much more dramatically, and we did not see that. If anything, it looks like there might be some beneficial immunomodulation, particularly at the early stages of infection. – Dr. Patricia Molina

 

Dr. Donald Abrams Tells Us How Medical Marijuana Helps AIDS Patients – Pt 1

Dr. Donald Abrams Tells Us How Medical Marijuana Helps AIDS Patients – Pt 2

AIDS Patient Turns to Medical Marijuana for Relief

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