Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that is spread through certain body fluids which include breast milk, blood, semen, and vaginal fluid. Once the the virus enters the body, it attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the T cells, which are vital in helping the body fight off infections.
Left untreated, HIV could destroy so many of these T cells that it can weaken the body’s immune system, causing the person to become susceptible to other infections or infection-related diseases. The last stage of HIV infection is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. According to statistics, there are over 1.1 million people in the United States who are infected with HIV and about 15% of those do not know they are infected.
While numerous research is still ongoing to find the drug that can completely get rid of HIV, medication is prescribed in order to manage the negative effects of the disease on the body, keeping the patients healthy and prolonging their lives. There are currently five major groups of pharmaceutical drugs that are being prescribed to patients with each one possessing a different mechanism in managing the spread of the HIV virus. These major groups of drugs are reverse transcriptase inhibitors, protease inhibitors, fusion inhibitors, integrase inhibitors, and multi-drug combinations – all of which slow down the replication of the virus in the cells.
Short term side effects include exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fever, muscle pain, occasional dizziness, and insomnia. And while these short term side effects are manageable, these drugs may cause irreversible damage in the long term, appearing months or years after starting medication.
Some long term side effects include kidney failure, liver damage, heart disease, diabetes or insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia, lipodystrophy, osteoporosis, nervous system and psychiatric effects which include insomnia, dizziness, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
HIV/AIDS and Medical Marijuana
While there are currently limited studies on medical marijuana and its effects on HIV, according to Mack and Joy, small scale surveys have shown that most medical marijuana users in the United States seek the drug for the relief of AIDS symptoms.
Testimonials and studies have shown that the use of medical marijuana helped in managing the adverse effects of AIDS. Cannabis consumption has helped in lowering chronic neuropathic pain, boosts the appetite, and lifts the mood.