Medical Monday: HIV/AIDS

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HIV and AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) are some of the most devastating diseases of our time. June 5th marks the anniversary of the first reported case of AIDS in 1981. Since then, it has caused devastation and loss across the globe. The disease is transmitted through some bodily fluids, and as of today, no cure exists. HIV is usually asymptomatic until it progresses to AIDS, which can elicit fever, night sweats, appetite loss and recurrent infections. The disease essentially attacks the individual's immune system; it's usually not the disease itself that results in death, but the infections that the patient may become susceptible to. Current treatment for HIV/AIDS is a combination of a few antiretroviral medications known as HAART. While this is the most promising option, this treatment can have its own side-effects as well, including exhaustion, nausea, pain and weight loss.

Many people with HIV/AIDS may find relief knowing that cannabis is a remedy to manage many of the symptoms of this illness and the treatment. It is a qualifying condition for medical cannabis in Arizona. Cannabis buyers' clubs in California reported that 60 percent of their clientele were people with AIDS, and small polls have reflected this willingness for patients to explore the possibility of using cannabis as medicine. While no widespread studies have been completed, there have been plenty of testimonials regarding its efficacy. Of course, patients should consult their physicians first, but cannabis has already been shown to help with severe nausea and pain.  Furthermore, thanks to cannabis' (sometimes too effective) ability to induce appetite, people with HIV or AIDS may be able to retain more nutrients and keep a healthy weight. While cannabis in pill form (often Marinol, a THC capsule) will be prescribed, vaporizing or ingesting the full cannabis flower can be even more beneficial. This is because the patient will be taking in the whole plant and the vast variety of cannabinoids and terpenes that have been shown to have a wide range of medical benefits. Utilizing cannabis as a medicine can help patients keep food down, alleviate some pain and provide some energy when needed.

Mental health is just as important as our physical health, and so this should be taken into consideration as well. Being diagnosed with these diseases is not something easy to process - and it can be easy to become depressed or anxious. Cannabis has the incredible ability to put our minds at ease - even at times in our lives when this is the most difficult. Our favorite herb can help us gain a new perspective, fall asleep at night, or even make the day's challenges a little more manageable.

We loved this quote from Peter McWilliams, a cancer and AIDS patient and cannabis activist, to sum it all up: "“In addition to the remarkable anti-nausea effects, medical marijuana had one additional benefit–now how do I say this without corrupting the youth of the nation?–I had forgotten how enjoyable it is being stoned,” McWilliams wrote. “I had forgotten, too, how healing enjoyment can be. Yes, pleasure is therapy. Ease to unravel disease. A deep appreciation of life as an answer to death.”

The remarkable sense of peace and well-being that cannabis has brought to people is enough to fight for legalization and normalization across the nation. It is not fair to allow certain patients access to cannabis in one state, and then punish them for it in another. Those with HIV/AIDS should be have access to this plant medicine to improve quality of life; we support the decriminalization of cannabis and increased access so more people can experience the benefit of this plant. --Words by Taylor Haynes