HIV / AIDS
HIV/AIDS is an approved Health Canada Category 1 MMAR condition
Medical Marijuana is NOT for everyone and is often a last resort for people that have tried a variety of pharmaceutical medications with little relief or too many side effects. Strong anecdotal evidence exists for the support of medical marijuana in treating symptoms associated with HIV/AIDS. We strongly suggest you discuss the potential benefit of medical marijuana with your doctor or specialist.
When diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) a person is referred to as being HIV positive. Once a person becomes HIV positive, the virus enters the bloodstream, then enters the cells that make up the immune system and multiplies. The HIV virus attacks the immune system slowly making it easier for a person to get a variety of illnesses known as opportunistic infections.  In some cases it may take years for a person to start feeling and looking ill as a result of being HIV positive.
Once HIV infection has significantly weakened an individual’s immune system to the point where they are unable to fight off opportunistic infections, that person is diagnosed as having AIDS.  AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.
HIV medication is designed to decrease the ‘viral-load’ and prevent HIV from reproducing, which limits the damage to the immune system. The 'viral-load' is the amount of the HIV virus that is circulating in the blood stream.  There are anti-HIV drugs that both reduce the viral load and the number of infections present in the blood stream. Some of the commonly prescribed drugs are used to help the body fight off opportunistic infections. Although these drugs are available to help slow down the virus, there is no cure to eliminate the virus from within the body.
Benefits of Marijuana
Marijuana is widely recognized for its effectiveness in treating symptoms related to HIV/AIDS. Marijuana has been known to help reduce the following symptoms in HIV patients:
- Lack of appetite
- Nerve Pain
- Sleeping problems
Marijuana is beneficial for HIV patients experiencing nausea from their HIV medications. With the help of marijuana to help control nausea associated with HIV medication, 4 HIV patients are more likely to take their medications as prescribed.
An increase in appetite is an effect of marijuana that is highly recognized. People affected with HIV often experience a lack of appetite that stimulates a vicious cycle of fatigue; not eating leads to fatigue, fatigue makes it hard to eat. Marijuana helps stimulate the appetite to avoid this cycle which in turns helps with weight gain.
Certain HIV medications cause pain via peripheral neuropathy. Evidence shows that marijuana can relieve this pain with fewer side affects than prescription medication.
In small doses, marijuana increases serotonin, similar to SSRI antidepressants. Marijuana’s antidepressant effects are because of its chemical similarity to natural substances in the brain known as endo-cannabinoids. These endo- cannabinoids are released under conditions of high stress or pain. These receptors have a direct effect on the cells producing serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that regulates the mood.
Drowsiness is a known common side effect of marijuana. Many HIV patients have a hard time sleeping due to pain, depression and anxiety. A small dose of marijuana before bed often helps HIV patients get a good nights sleep.
- AIDS organization Marijuana Fact Sheet 2009
- HIV/AIDS and Cannabis 2008
- Americans for Safe Access Foundation – HIV/AIDS and Medical Marijuana