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What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system, which is responsible for fighting off infections and diseases. Over time, HIV can weaken the immune system to the point where the body is no longer able to fight off certain infections and cancers. When this happens, a person is said to have AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. It is characterized by a weakened immune system and the presence of certain opportunistic infections or cancers. Without treatment, AIDS can be fatal.
How is HIV/AIDS caused?
HIV is transmitted through sexual contact
Use of infected needles or other injection drug equipment
From mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding
There is no cure for HIV, but antiretroviral therapy (ART) can suppress the virus and prevent the progression to AIDS. With proper treatment, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives.
Signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS
In the early stages of HIV infection, many people experience no symptoms or only flu-like symptoms, which can include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Sore throat
These early symptoms can subside within a few weeks and may not appear for years. In the progressive stages, symptoms may worsen to include-
- Rapid weight loss
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Night sweats
- Recurring fever
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent, unexplained fatigue
- Skin rashes or bumps
- Mouth, genital, or anal sores or ulcers
- Blurred or distorted vision
- Memory loss, confusion, or neurological problems
The onset of such symptoms indicates the development of AIDS.
How does cannabis medicine work for HIV/AIDS
THC and CBD (compounds present in the cannabis plant) have anti-inflammatory properties. Given these properties, cannabis medicine may provide a beneficial intervention to reduce morbidity related to inflammation in people living with HIV (PWH). Cannabis medicine works by activating the Endocannabinoid system which helps in regulating inflammation and immunity. Activation of the ECS by cannabinoids may reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines while increasing the production of anti-inflammatory mediators. This may help to dampen the chronic inflammation that is a hallmark of HIV infection and is associated with a range of negative health outcomes and comorbidities. In addition to modulating the ECS, cannabis medicine may also exert anti-inflammatory effects through other mechanisms, such as by reducing oxidative stress and apoptosis (cell death) in immune cells, or by modulating the gut microbiome and improving gut barrier function.
Potential benefits of cannabis medicine for HIV/AIDS
Here are some potential ways in which cannabis may help people with HIV/AIDS:
- Pain relief: Many people with HIV/AIDS experience chronic pain, and cannabis has been shown to be effective in treating chronic pain conditions.
- Appetite stimulation: HIV/AIDS can cause loss of appetite and wasting syndrome, and cannabis has been shown to stimulate appetite in people with these conditions.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: HIV/AIDS can cause chronic inflammation, which can contribute to a range of health problems. Cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties and may be helpful in reducing inflammation.
- Nausea and vomiting relief: HIV/AIDS treatments can cause nausea and vomiting, and cannabis has been shown to be effective in treating these symptoms.
- Anxiety and depression relief: HIV/AIDS can cause anxiety and depression, and cannabis has been shown to have anxiolytic and antidepressant effects.