Marijuana and HIV/AIDS

Since 1981, in the USA alone AIDS has struck 340,000 people, and almost 205,000 have died as a result of the disease.  The Federal Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports “AIDS is now a leading cause of death for both men and women between the ages of 25 and 44.”  Despite all the press and attention surrounding the deadly epidemic, many people are still unaware of what AIDS really is.  Simply put, AIDS is an umbrella name for 30 separate conditions, when they occur in someone who is HIV positive.  These infections prey on weakened immune systems with most sufferers from AIDS contracting several of the 30 conditions throughout their illness, until finally losing to one of them.

As of today, there is no cure for AIDS.  There are traditional medications used to both treat and prevent infections.  These medications unfortunately cause a wide range of detrimental side effects, including loss of appetite, nausea, headaches, and pain.  These medications can create sever gastrointestinal effects, which in turn produces AIDS “wasting syndrome”.  Ultimately, this can lead to an individual actually starving to death.  This is where medical marijuana can help tremendously.

Factors such as low food intake, poor nutrient absorption, and altered metabolism can contribute to AIDS wasting syndrome.  A low appetite is common in HIV positive patients and some drug side effects also decrease a patient’s appetite.  Various AIDS drugs have to be taken on an empty stomach, and infections in the mouth or throat can make it painful to eat.  These situations make it difficult for some people with AIDS to eat when they do actually feel hungry.  Because people who have AIDS need more calories just to maintain their weight marijuana can help stimulate appetite and provide much needed pain relief.

In 2007, investigators at Columbia University published clinical trial data showing that AIDS/HIV patients who inhaled cannabis four times daily “experienced substantial increases in food intake with little evidence of discomfort and no impairment of cognitive performance.”   They concluded that marijuana had a clear medical benefit in AIDS/HIV patients.   Another study by the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that “marijuana significantly reduces HIV-related neuropathic pain when added to a patient’s already-prescribed pain management regimen.”  Marijuana was also found to be an effective option for pain relief in those whose pain is not controlled with current medications.  Moods, physical disability, and quality of life all improved significantly during study treatment.

Despite use of strong pain therapies, neuropathic pain continues to reduce the quality of life and daily functioning in HIV- infected patients.  Cannabinoid receptors in the central and peripheral nervous systems have been shown to dim pain perception.  Various studies and extensive research have found that virtually the only medicine capable of treating the entire spectrum of side effects, without causing harm to the user, is marijuana.  As AIDS progresses and the medications become tougher to handle, marijuana provides patients with help in easing joint and muscle pain, and is known to reduce stomach cramping associated with opioid use.  It is clear; the effectiveness that smoking or ingesting Cannabis offers for neuropathic pain is undeniable.  One would have to ask why AIDS/HIV patients are being denied the one natural, non-toxic alternative that actually helps them live a better life.  We don’t think they should be denied any longer!!

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