Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) spreads through body fluids and attacks the immune system's CD4/T cells, thereby weakening the immune system and making the body less effective in combatting diseases and infections. When left untreated, HIV becomes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is when the body's T cells fall below 300 cells per cubic millimeter of blood, which can make even common diseases and infections potentially fatal. HIV is highly contagious through the transfer of bodily fluids, and many people who have HIV are unaware they have it. Currently, antiretroviral therapies effectively prevent HIV from becoming AIDS, but the symptoms of these therapies include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heart disease, weakened bones, muscle tissue breakdown, and neuropathic pain.
Because cannabis can help target these side effects, it can be used as a supplementary treatment for those undergoing antiretroviral therapy so that it is easier for patient to complete their therapy. HIV patients who consumed medical marijuana reported improvements in appetite, muscle pain levels, chronic neuropathic pain, nausea, anxiety, depression, and skin tingling. By boosting appetite and daily function, medical marijuana helps prevent weight loss and muscle breakdown. Studies also show that medical marijuana is safe for HIV/HCV patients, and consuming the medication had no adverse side effects on the immune system or the body's T cells and it did not increase the risk for developing liver fibrosis. Lastly, one study found marijuana-like compounds blocked the spread of late stage HIV, and an animal trial found monkeys infected with the animal form of HIV saw a decrease in damage to the gastrointestinal immunity in the stomach when they were administered with THC for 17 months.
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