Could Using Medical Marijuana For HIV/AIDS Be A Step To Better Health?

By QUICKMEDCARDS  |  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Shatha Atiya  December 19, 2023  

Though marijuana excels in treating multiple medical conditions, its use in the HIV/AIDS population has been somewhat controversial. Some studies have suggested that marijuana can help improve appetite and reduce nausea in patients living with HIV/AIDS, both of which are common symptoms of the disease. In addition, marijuana also works to help alleviate pain and improve sleep quality.

As a result, many patients living with HIV/AIDS have found that medical marijuana can help them manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. However, it is worth noting that patients should only use marijuana under the supervision of a medical professional.

Throughout this post, we will strive to have a definitive answer on whether medical cannabis could be beneficial for patients living with HIV/AIDS by answering the following questions:

  • What are the facts concerning marijuana use and HIV/AIDS?
  • Are there studies on using medical marijuana in HIV/AIDS treatment?
  • Do these studies support the use of medical marijuana for HIV/AIDS?
Red HIV ribbon pinned to shirt

Facts About HIV

HIV/AIDS is a contagious disease that is still misunderstood. HIV is a virus that destroys a type of white blood cell called a CD4 cell, which helps the body fight infections. And AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. People with AIDS experience multiple symptoms that can make everyday activities very difficult.

There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are treatments that can prolong and improve the quality of life. But despite these facts, HIV/AIDS is still surrounded by myths and misconceptions. 

Many people believe that HIV/AIDS is a problem for certain groups of people, yet, it is a serious problem that continues to affect people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds across the world. Others think that it can be cured with medication or home remedies. 

These myths can lead to discrimination and stigma, which can make it difficult for people with HIV/AIDS to get the care and support they need. With more education and understanding, we can help dispel these myths and create a more supportive environment for those living with HIV/AIDS.

Cannabis cookies

Are HIV and AIDS different labels for the same disease?

No. HIV can damage the immune system and make it harder for the body to fight off infections and diseases. AIDS is a collection of symptoms and illnesses that occur when HIV destroys the immune system. HIV infection can lead to AIDS, but not every infected individual with the virus will develop AIDS.

A person with HIV may have no symptoms for many years, but the virus is still present and can be passed on to others during this time. Eventually, HIV weakens the immune system to the point where it can no longer fight off other infections and illnesses, which is when AIDS develops. Without treatment, HIV can progress to AIDS in just a few years. However, with early diagnosis and treatment, HIV is manageable, and those with the virus can live long healthy lives.

Who bears the primary burden of HIV/AIDS and why?

The infected individual bears the primary burden of HIV/AIDS. Besides the hardship stemming from the symptoms, those with HIV/AIDS often experience discrimination and stigma. 

The family also bears a burden, as they may need to provide care for their loved ones. In some cases, the family may also experience stigma and discrimination. 

Finally, society also bears a burden, as HIV/AIDS can lead to reduced productivity and increased health care costs. However, it is necessary to note that the disease does not discriminate, and anyone can be affected by HIV/AIDS, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.

How long does it take for HIV to turn into AIDS?

There is no one answer to this question as it can vary from person to person. In general, however, it is believed that it can take anywhere from several years to a decade or more for HIV to progress to AIDS. The rate of progression varies depending on several factors, including the person’s overall health, the HIV variant they are infected with, and whether they are taking antiretroviral therapy (ART).

In general, however, people with a lower CD4 count tend to progress to AIDS more quickly than those with a higher CD4 count. 

A person’s CD4 count is a measure of their immune system function. A healthy person has a CD4 count of around 800-1200. AIDS is typically diagnosed when a person’s CD4 count falls below 200. However, it is worth noting that there is no set CD4 count at which AIDS will develop. 

Some people may have very low CD4 counts and never develop AIDS, while others may have only slightly impaired immune function and progress to AIDS relatively quickly. The best way to avoid progressing to AIDS is to get tested for HIV as soon as possible and to start ART if you are diagnosed with the virus.

Marijuana and HIV/AIDS–How does Marijuana Help?

When someone is infected with HIV, the virus attacks their immune system. Over time, the virus weakens the immune system to the point where it can no longer fight off infections and disease. This stage of HIV infection is called AIDS. 

The key treatment for AIDS is antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART is a combination of drugs that stop the virus from replicating in the body. This therapy helps keep the virus at low levels and preserves the function of the immune system. However, even with treatment, HIV can still cause damage to the immune system and lead to a variety of health problems. As a result, people with AIDS often have a shortened life expectancy.

While marijuana does not cure HIV or AIDS, it can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the condition. In particular, marijuana has been shown to help improve appetite and reduce nausea. For people living with HIV/AIDS, these effects can be beneficial in helping to maintain a healthy weight and preventing nutrient deficiencies. 

Additionally, marijuana use has been linked to improved mood and reduced anxiety levels. For people living with HIV/AIDS, who often face significant emotional challenges, these effects can be valuable in promoting overall well-being. While more research is needed to fully understand the role of marijuana in HIV/AIDS treatment, it is clear that it can have potential benefits for those living with the condition.

States where medical marijuana is available


CBD is a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis. Numerous studies have shown that CBD can help ease numerous conditions, for example, pain, anxiety, and inflammation. 

For patients living with HIV/AIDS, CBD may offer some welcome relief from the side effects of their medication. In particular, CBD has been shown to help reduce nausea and vomiting, two common side effects of antiretroviral therapy. CBD may also help to improve appetite and weight gain, as well as relieve pain and anxiety. While more research is needed to confirm these benefits, CBD offers hope for patients living with HIV/AIDS who are looking for ways to ease their symptoms.

HIV mouth ulcers and CBD

HIV patient taking CBD

One of the possible symptoms of HIV is mouth ulcers. These sores can occur anywhere in the mouth, including on the tongue, inside the cheeks, and on the gums. They can be painful and make it difficult to eat and drink. In some cases, they may also bleed. Treatment for mouth ulcers typically involves topical creams or ointments. However, in some cases, oral steroids may be prescribed to help reduce inflammation. More recently, patients are turning to orally administered CBD products to ease mouth ulcers.

CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may be the reason it is effective in treating mouth ulcers based on a study published in the Journal of Dental Research. When CBD is applied directly to the ulcer, it can help to reduce swelling and pain. Additionally, CBD may help to speed up the healing process by reducing inflammation and promoting cell growth. While more research is needed to confirm these effects, CBD may provide relief for those who suffer from mouth ulcers.

Terpenes for AIDS

When assessing the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, the focus is often on the well-known cannabinoids THC and CBD. However, other compounds known as terpenes may possess therapeutic value too.

Terpenes are a class of organic compounds produced by many plants, including cannabis. These molecules are responsible for the distinctive smells of different cannabis strains. Some terpenes in marijuana include limonene, pinene, linalool, caryophyllene, terpinolene, myrcene, and bisabolol.

In recent years, scientists have begun to explore the potential medicinal applications of terpenes. Numerous in vitro, animal, and clinical trials have shown that terpenes possess a wide range of medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, anticonvulsive, antidepressant, anxiolytic, anticancer, antitumor, neuroprotective, anti-mutagenic, anti-allergic, antibiotic and anti-diabetic attributes.

Because they are very safe and well-tolerated, terpenes hold great promise as natural remedies for many ailments. And this is supported by their good therapeutic index.

What Does the Research Say?

Although most reports supporting the benefits of medical marijuana for HIV/AIDS are anecdotal, scientific studies exist, although scarce, that back these reports.

One such study sought to investigate the self-reported use of medical cannabis for HIV/AIDS symptom management. With approval from the Ethics Committee, HIV-positive individuals were recruited from a large clinic and anonymously completed a cross-sectional questionnaire.

The symptoms list of the questionnaire included the following

  • Appetite Loss
  • Tremor
  • Feeling sick
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Vision Dimness
  • Tiredness
  • Memory loss
  • Slurred Speech
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Muscle Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling

Results from the study were eye-opening and impressive. First, out of the 565 patients approached, the research team received 523 questionnaire responses marking a 93% response rate. And from the responses, 143 patients confirmed using cannabis to treat symptoms associated with HIV.

Data from patients using medicinal cannabis to alleviate their symptoms revealed that:

  • 97% reported improved appetite
  • 94% reported improvement in muscle pain
  • 93% reported improvement in nausea
  • 93% reported improvement in anxiety
  • 86% reported improvement in depression
  • 90% reported improvement in nerve pain
  • 85 % reported improvement in paraesthesia

The study then focused on the 143 patients that confirmed cannabis use to understand why they opted for this non-conventional method for relief. The results were as follows: 

  • Of the 77 people who wanted to treat symptoms, 54 percent had success in experiencing relief.
  • Of the 121 people who pursued improved relaxation, 85% archived this fete.
  • 94 sought to mitigate anxiety, and 66% percent were successfully able to do so.
  • 75 patients desired relief from depression, and 52% managed to ease their depression.
  • 29 needed reduced symptom frequency, and 20% successfully attained it.
  • 15 were after increased energy levels, and 11% actualized their goal.
  • 62 people were after the marijuana high, and 43% were satisfied with the outcome.

The study yielded some interesting results. Out of the respondents, half or more reported improvements in symptoms including nausea, anxiety, nerve pain, depression, tingling, numbness, weight loss, headaches, tremor, constipation, and tiredness. 

While the sample size is small, and the results may not be representative of the general population, they nonetheless provide a tantalizing glimpse into the potential benefits of marijuana for HIV. 

Symptoms of AIDS Cannabis may Help with

To get a clearer picture of how medical cannabis could be beneficial in the treatment of HIV symptoms, let’s look at the statistical data compiled by Emily Woolridge et al.

AIDS symptoms that medical marijuana alleviates

More Research Findings on Medical Cannabis and AIDS

According to a growing body of research, medical marijuana can be an effective treatment for HIV/AIDS. One study found that marijuana use was associated with decreased neuropathic pain plus increased appetite. 

Other research has shown that medical marijuana can help to improve mood and reduce anxiety. In addition, some studies have suggested that marijuana may help to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS by reducing fatigue and improving sleep. 

HIV/AIDS and epilepsy

HIV/AIDS patients are more likely to experience seizures than the general population. In fact, research suggests that up to 15% of HIV/AIDS patients will develop epilepsy at some point during their illness, yet it is not a topic discussed openly or frequently enough. 

There are several reasons why HIV/AIDS patients are at increased risk for seizures. First, the virus can damage the brain and nervous system, making it more susceptible to seizure activity. Seizures can also be a side effect of HIV medications. In addition, HIV/AIDS can weaken the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight off infections that can lead to seizures. Finally, HIV/AIDS can cause changes in metabolism and hormone levels that can trigger seizure activity. 

When it comes to treating epilepsy or seizures, traditional treatments may fail or cause undesirable side effects. For these individuals, medical marijuana may be an appealing option. And there is growing evidence to suggest that marijuana can help control seizures. In addition, marijuana is generally well-tolerated and may offer relief from other symptoms of epilepsy, such as pain and anxiety. As a result, medical marijuana may come in handy in providing relief for HIV patients experiencing seizures.

Find out more about how medical marijuana may help people with epilepsy.

Side effects associated with medical marijuana for HIV/AIDS

Like any other drug, there are risks associated with marijuana consumption, hence the need for a patient to consult with a professional medical marijuana doctor before proceeding with a cannabis regimen.

Some common side effects of consuming marijuana include:

  • Fatigue
  • Mild paranoia
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Impaired ability to concentrate
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dry mouth

Another concern with medical marijuana for HIV/AIDS is its interaction with other drugs. For instance, cannabis may intensify the effects of sedatives, therefore, causing drowsiness. Additionally, drug use is a risk factor for HIV infection, making cannabis use even more controversial. Still, many patients with HIV/AIDS find that the potential benefits of using medicinal cannabis outweigh the risks.

Does marijuana interfere with antiretroviral medications?

HIV medication

While marijuana has exhibited some potential medical benefits, there is still much unknown about its effects on the human body. And it is especially true when it comes to marijuana’s interactions with other medications. One key area of concern is how marijuana may affect antiretroviral drugs used in HIV treatment. Some studies have found that marijuana can interfere with how these medications work in the body, while other research suggests that marijuana may improve the effectiveness of antiretrovirals. 

The truth is that more research is needed to fully understand the potential risks and benefits of marijuana use for people living with HIV. Nonetheless, consulting with a doctor or pharmacist before using marijuana is vital if you are taking antiretroviral medications.

Popular Cannabis Strains for AIDS

  • Shark Shock: Shark Shock is an Indica dominant hybrid strain comprising a 1;1 CBD and THC ratio. It can treat appetite loss, pain, nausea, and stress.
  • Tangerine Dream: Tangerine Dream is a Sativa dominant hybrid strain comprising 25%% THC and less than one percent of CBD. It can treat stress, appetite loss, nausea, anxiety, and more.
  • Juicy Fruit: Juicy Fruit is a 50:50 Indica/Sativa strain that tastes like bubblegum or fruit punch and helps treat nausea, appetite loss, stress, and pain.
  • Cookies and Cream: Cookies and Cream is a 50:50 Indica/Sativa strain with less than 1% CBD and 27% THC. It’s a potent strain that can treat pain, depression, stress, appetite loss, muscle spasms, and insomnia.
  • Sweet Tooth: Sweet Tooth is a 50:50 Indica Sativa hybrid strain with less than 1 percent CND and 16.5 percent THC. It can treat the pains associated with AIDS, appetite loss, stress, anxiety, depression, and nausea.

HIV/ AIDS Awareness

HIV medication

HIV/AIDS and aging awareness day is an annual event that takes place on December 1st. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and its impact on older adults. Although HIV/AIDS is a disease that can affect anyone, older adults are often more at risk for developing HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. Also, it allows people to show their support for those living with the disease. 

Quick Med Cards advocates for HIV/AIDS awareness. We support those affected by facilitating patient access to medicinal marijuana and work to raise awareness about the disease to stop its spread. By working together, we can help end the spread of HIV/AIDS and improve the lives of those affected by the disease.

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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