Can Medical Marijuana Help With HIV/AIDS?
Although it’s possible to identify HIV symptoms early, you can’t be sure that you are infected until you get tested. A simple test helps you understand your status and take the proper measures to keep you and your partner healthy. If you test:
- Negative- your physician will advise you on various prevention tools to help you maintain your status.
- Positive- you can take daily medication that helps keep your viral load low. In that case, the HIV in your blood becomes undetectable through a routine test. Maintaining your viral load at this level is the best thing that can happen since you cannot transmit the virus to an HIV-negative partner.
- Positive when pregnant- if you are an expectant mother and test positive, the doctor will advise you to start medication immediately to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus to your unborn child.
Stages of HIV
In addition to taking a test, you can tell if you have contracted the virus by observing various possible symptoms. However, the symptoms of HIV differ from one person to the other. It also depends on what stage of the disease the person is in. Below are the three stages of HIV and various symptoms you may observe at each stage.
Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection
During the early stages, two to four weeks, you’re likely to develop a flu-like illness after getting the virus. The symptoms are so mild that you can barely notice them during this stage. However, the viral load in your body is still high, and you can more easily transmit it than in later stages. The symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Swollen lymph glands
- Sore throat
- Mouth ulcers
- Muscle aches and joint pains
- Night sweats
These symptoms can last anywhere between a few days to several weeks. However, some people don’t experience any of these signs. In addition, having these symptoms shouldn’t confirm that you have HIV as they can be as a result of another illness.
If you observe the symptoms and suspect that you might have been exposed, visit your nearest testing site and get tested.
Stage 2: Clinical Latency
During this stage, the virus in your body continues to multiply but at a shallow rate. As a result, you may not have any symptoms or feel sick. Hence the stage is also known as chronic HIV infection.
You can remain at this stage for 10-15 years without treatment. But again, it depends on the person, and some people pass the stage very fast. To be on the safe side, ensure you take your medication as directed by your primary care provider. If you follow the instructions, you can maintain your viral load at undetectable levels, maintaining your health and lowering the risk of transmitting it to others.
If your viral load is detectable, you can still transmit the virus to other people even if you don’t have any visible signs. Therefore, ensure you check with your healthcare provider for regular viral load checkups.
Stage 3: AIDS
If you learn that you are HIV positive but ignore taking medication and the proper measures to lower your viral load, the virus will eventually weaken your immune system. As a result, the disease will progress to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, AIDS, the last stage of HIV infection. Common AIDS symptoms include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Profuse night sweats
- Feeling extremely tired
- Prolonged lymph gland swelling
- Lasting diarrhea
- Sore mouth, genitals, and anus
- Memory loss and depression
- Neurologic disorders
You can experience the above symptoms due to other illnesses. The only way to be sure is by taking an HIV test if you suspect you’ve been exposed to the virus.
Screening Tests for HIV
Knowing your HIV status prompts you to start HIV treatment known as antiretroviral therapy, ART, which helps you remain healthy for years. Beginning the treatment sooner after the diagnosis reduces the viral load in your blood and any HIV-related illnesses.
Several HIV screening tests can help you know your status and make a wise decision regarding your sex life, drug use, and health care. In addition, if you are negative and risk exposure to the virus, you can take pre-exposure prophylaxis, which is very effective in preventing infection.
These screening tests are accurate, but none of them can detect the virus immediately after infection. How soon a test detects the presence of the virus depends on the test and how long you’ve had the virus. There are three HIV screening tests:
- Antigen/ antibody test looks for HIV antibodies and antigens in the blood. When you get exposed to HIV, your immune system produces antibodies. On the other hand, when the virus gets into your blood, it produces foreign substances, antigens, that activate your immune system to produce antibodies. The antigen/ antibody test done from blood taken from your vein helps detect HIV 18-45 days after exposure. Alternatively, you can opt for an antigen/antibody test done from the blood from a finger prick. The latter detects HIV presence 18-90 days after exposure.
- Nucleic Acid Test, NATs, looks for the actual virus in the blood. The test is costly, hence rarely used unless you were at a very high-risk exposure and showed early infection symptoms. The test can detect HIV 10-33 days after exposure.
- Antibody tests look for antibodies triggered by HIV in your blood or oral fluids. It’s the most rapid and FDA-approved HIV self-test. You can use it to detect the virus 23-90 days after exposure.
Suppose you carry out a self-test, and it gives you positive results. In that case, you should visit your healthcare provider for confirmation. After a positive lab test, the healthcare provider will book you for a follow-up test on the same blood sample. In most cases, HIV screening tests are very accurate, but follow-up testing helps confirm the accuracy of the diagnosis.
Contemporary Treatment for HIV/AIDS
If you’re living with HIV, you may choose to explore non-conventional treatment options to ease conventional medication symptoms and side effects. Although contemporary medicine doesn’t replace conventional treatment, they help improve your overall health. As a result, about 70% of people living with HIV have tried alternative therapies.
How Alternative HIV Treatments Help
As mentioned, alternative treatments do not cure HIV. However, they offer numerous benefits such as:
- Relieving HIV or AIDS symptoms
- Physical therapies help improve your movement, relaxation, and overall health
- Restoring your energy flow
- Complements conventional treatment
The benefits depend on the contemporary treatment you are using. In addition, some of these alternatives may have unpleasant side effects or interact with your medication. Therefore, it’s advisable to talk to your physician before trying any of them.
Examples of Alternative Treatments and Therapies
There are numerous natural treatments you can try to ease HIV symptoms and the side effects of the medicines. Most of these alternatives have been shown to provide positive results in most patients. These alternatives include:
According to a certain report, about 39% of people living with HIV suffer from depression, significantly affecting their quality of life. Engaging in physical therapy helps you relax, destress, and improve overall mental health.
Practicing meditation is a great way to help you relax and reduce anxiety which is common among HIV patients.
Herbal Medication and Supplements
You can get most herbal medicines and supplements over the counter. However, the FDA doesn’t regulate these alternatives. Hence it is essential to take caution when taking them. In addition, make sure you speak to a healthcare provider before using herbal medications and supplements.
Medical marijuana is an effective way of helping alleviate pain, reduce nausea associated with ART, and increase appetite. Medical practitioners have used it since the early days of the epidemic. However, over time, the herb’s use has changed from a plant that’s smoked to a wide array of synthetic products.
Medical practitioners use CBD and THC marijuana strains to ease the symptoms associated with HIV diagnosis. However, ART drugs cause severe side effects such as nausea and insomnia. In this case, medical practitioners may recommend using medicinal marijuana to mitigate the side effects. In addition, your healthcare provider may administer contemporary drugs containing THC strains to stimulate your appetite.
Treating HIV/AIDS Using Medical Marijuana
Once you contract HIV, it compromises your immune system making your body lose its ability to fight other diseases and infections. As a result, you may find yourself suffering from severe conditions such as bronchitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, influenza, and meningitis, among others.
If the virus infection advances, it leads to AIDS, which causes a decrease in your body T-cells. At this stage, you may also experience additional infections. As a result, you require powerful drugs to help combat the effects. Unfortunately, these conventional medicines cause severe side effects, including appetite loss, vomiting, and severe pain.
Benefits of Medical Marijuana
Studies have shown that treating HIV/AIDS with medical marijuana can help:
- Reduces neuropathic pain- peripheral neuropathic pain is common in people living with HIV as it’s caused by the virus and some drugs used in treating it. A certain study showed that inhaling cannabis strain containing at least 9.4% THC three times a day for at least five days helps alleviate the pain.
- Minimize anxiety- using medical marijuana to treat HIV causes a ‘good drug effect’ which increases a feeling of euphoria and self-confidence, reducing stress and tension common in people living with HIV.
- Provides chronic pain relief- cannabis strain containing 12.5% THC can help reduce chronic pain, common with HIV. Your medical marijuana doctor can prescribe the drug in the form of edibles, flowers, or concentrates.
- Alleviate nausea- as the disease progresses, instances of nausea become more complex and apparent. Using cannabis together with your antiretroviral therapy helps alleviate the side effects of the drugs.
- Improves appetite- loss of appetite and weight loss are common in HIV/AIDS patients. Medical cannabis helps improve appetite and reduce weight loss by managing the virus symptoms.
In addition, medical marijuana is very effective in treating anxiety and depression associated with HIV/AIDS by providing a euphoric effect. When you have a positive outlook on life and good mental health, you can maintain your physical health and well-being. As a result, you can enjoy your life to the fullest.
Best Strains of Marijuana for HIV/AIDS
While cannabis is not an alternative treatment for HIV/AIDS, it helps manage the symptoms. However, not all cannabis strains are adequate, and some are recommended, and you will have to find what works best for you. Some of the best strains of marijuana for HIV/AIDS include:
- Anti-inflammatory cannabinoids include THC, CBD, THCA, CBG, CBN, CBC, THCV, and CBDA.
- Pain Relieving Cannabinoids- these include CBC, CBN, THC, CBD, THCV, and CBDA.
- Strain to increase appetite- you can use THC marijuana as it’s effective in increasing appetite but refrain from THCV as it decreases appetite.
- Strains that reduce nausea- anti-emetic marijuana strains such as CBD, THC, CBDA, and THCA effectively reduce or eliminate nausea.
When choosing the best marijuana strains to minimize HIV symptoms and effects of ART medication, consider the side effects the strain may have on you.
If you are new to using medical marijuana for the first time or want to avoid the euphoric or feeling high effects, consider higher CBD strains.
Suppose you want to start using medicinal marijuana to minimize the side effects of HIV or eliminate the effects of ART. In that case, you need to source your supply from a professional medical marijuana specialist. For example, in Florida, you can get marijuana strains for treating HIV from Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers such as the MMJ Health, which DR. Morgan leads.
While each of these centers provides unique products depending on their operation, you can rest assured that you’ll only get quality products from them. The best thing about buying medical marijuana from such a center is that you can get whatever cannabis product you prefer from the confines of your recommendation. In addition, the specialist provides you with an accurate daily dosage, allowing you to buy your required purchasing limit.
If you are looking for a weed doctor near me, you can try any of our nine locations in Florida. So visit us today and find out if you qualify for medical marijuana. If yes, we will put you in the Florida Medical Marijuana Registry, allowing you to get your supply depending on your needs.