I was infected with HIV in 2011. I take antiretrovirals, steroids, and medical marijuana. Medical marijuana enables me to go jogging, it increases my appetite, and it is the only treatment that hasn’t had severe lasting side effects on my body. I’m in a serodiscordant couple- my husband is HIV-negative. In addition to the growing list of ways marijuana helps people with HIV, marijuana can also decrease the risk of seroconversion.
My blood labs are analyzed monthly for viral load(the number of HIV copies) and my CD4 count (the number of T-cells.) I smoke marijuana everyday. I’ve been consistently undetectable and my last T-cell count was 1280. Undetectable means less than 20 HIV copies per cubic millimeter. An average healthy person has anywhere from 500-1500 T-cells in a cubic millimeter of blood. Without treatment, HIV decreases 50-100 cells per year. A person with an undetectable viral load is extremely unlikely to pass it on to another person.
Dr. Patricia Molina’s research team at Louisiana State University was initially formed to analyze the negative consequences of drug abuse upon HIV-infected patients. In 2011 Molina studied infected monkeys on THC. They expected to find an increase in the progression of AIDS. Ironicly, their data suggests marijuana use blocks the spread of HIV, specifically in the intestinal tract. The gastrointestinal system is attacked almost immediately after after infection. HIV destroys cells lining the digestive tract, creating “highways” for the HIV to enter the blood stream. This intestinal damage is one of the leading factors HIV accelerates to domination so quickly.
Rhesus monkeys infected with SIV(monkey HIV) were studied over 17 months. “When we started the study, we thought [THC] was going to increase viral load [the amount of the HIV virus that is present in the gut.]” THC activates CB1 and CB2 receptors in our brain. Once activated, the CB2 receptors manifest themselves all throughout the body including the gastrointestinal tract. The CB2 receptors in turn build healthy cells lining the digestive system. In other words, THC prompts our bodies to rebuild damaged areas in our bodies caused by HIV. Molina’s work in 2011 was virtually ignored because medical marijuana is widely known for treating late-stage AIDS patients with depressed appetites.
HIV has jumped from chimpanzees to the human race at least three times. We know this based on phylogenetics. It only makes sense to test infected monkeys rather than risk testing humans with the absence of life-saving antiretrovirals. We still know very little about HIV, since it the virus was barely indentified in 1983.
Others have stepped in to discredit Molina’s findings, such as ProjectSAM. Organizations such as ProjectSAM contend that we need more time to evaluate the evidence. People like me just don’t have time to wait. It’s essential that these organizations should look at the hard data instead of clinging to the idea that marijuana is an illicit substance.
I plan on continuing using medical marijuana along with antiretrovirals. Antiretrovirals have caused me to experience pronounced hallucinations and abnormal dreams- far more psychoactive disturbances than from marijuana. After deep research and my own experiences in my drug treatment, I’ve come to the conclusion that medical marijuana is absolutely necessary.