An Overview of Medical Marijuana Usage in the Treatment of HIV AIDS
What is HIV?
Hundreds of thousands of researchers across the world are researching to find out what is HIV and how to prevent it. The human immunodeficiency virus, better known as HIV, is one of the deadliest diseases to inflict humankind. In order to understand what HIV means, it must be broken down into further details that specify the main characteristics of this disease.
HIV, which only affects humans, weakens the immune system by extinguishing the cells that fight infections and sicknesses within the human body. This makes the immune system deficient and unsuitable for healthy living; it can no longer protect the body. The virus uses a human cell as its host and, from there, continues to reproduce and replicate itself at an alarming rate.
The distinguishing factor of HIV is that it cannot be wiped out by the immune system; it renders the system so weak that the person’s bodily defences remain compromised for life.
To make matters worse, HIV can hide within the cells of a human body for long periods of time; this is often why is goes undiagnosed and unnoticed for so long. It directly attacks the immune system alongside the CD4 cells and t-cells, which play an important role in fighting diseases and infections. After HIV attacks these cells, it uses them to make copies of itself; these important cells are eventually destroyed and can no longer fight against the disease, which is why HIV is virtually impossible to cure.
As time passes, HIV destroys so many cells in the human body that the body fails to fight any diseases or infections, regardless of their severity. This is the final stage of HIV; the body has been thoroughly infected with AIDS and the person’s entire system is made vulnerable and weak.
HIV and AIDS are often confused and used interchangeably. In reality, AIDS is the last stage of HIV and not every HIV patient reaches this particular stage. Even though there is no cure for HIV, there are still treatments to stop the disease from entering its final stages. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is one such treatment that helps the body to keep HIV at its lowest and least harmful level.
ART involves using HIV medicines in order to fight the infection caused by HIV. There is no lone medicine that does the job; in fact, a combination of several medicines work together to stop the body from entering the AIDS stage. While these HIV medicines may not be able to cure the illness completely, they can definitely control the virus in a way that it helps the patient to live a longer and healthier life. There are times when such treatments also reduce the risk of transferring the HIV disease to others.
Before the introduction of ART, patients would often enter the AIDS stage within a few years. This has changed in the modern world and many HIV victims are now living much longer lives than expected. For now, the best way to deal with HIV is through precautions and controlled treatments; there is no whole cure as of yet.
What is AIDS?
What is AIDS is a very common question these days considering the rising popularity of this deadly disease. The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a stage at which a patient progresses into when infected by HIV. AIDS is acquired; it is not inherited or passed down through bloodlines.
AIDS is a syndrome, which means that it is a combination of signs and symptoms of disease. It is important to note that AIDS is not a single disease; it is always a complex illness with a variety of symptoms and complications, which makes it difficult to treat as well. Patients at the AIDS stage have their immune systems severely affected by HIV, which leaves them weak and vulnerable in the face of opportunistic infections.
A patient is only considered to progress to the stage of AIDS if they have an opportunistic infection, a specific kind of cancer, or an extremely low number of CD4 cells.
What are HIV symptoms?
Patients of HIV can exhibit a multitude of HIV symptoms, including an illness resembling the flu around two to six weeks after the person is infected with HIV. This is called the “seroconversion” illness and it is experienced by around 80% of HIV patients. However, HIV does not display any symptoms for years, which is why it sometimes goes unnoticed and cannot be diagnosed or treated within a timely manner.
Some of the most common symptoms of HIV include HIV rash, sore throat, fever and body rashes. Other less common symptoms include muscle pain, joint pain, tiredness and swollen glands. These symptoms can last anywhere from a week to two weeks, but some patients do experience them for longer. They are a testament to the fact that the immune system of the patient’s body is trying to fight the virus. HIV rash can become very dangerous and spread on major parts of the body.
Once the initial symptoms of HIV diminish, several years will pass without any indication of the HIV infection. However, the virus is still active during this period; it continues to damage the immune system at an insidious pace. This is precisely why this period of the disease is probably the most dangerous; it can take up to ten years to become visible but, by this point, immense harm has been caused to the body and recovery becomes impossible.
After the immune system has been damaged to such an extent, the symptoms are different from the ones mentioned previously. They now involve chronic diarrhea, skin-related issues, night sweats, weight loss, recurrent infections and life-threatening illnesses. If a patient is diagnosed on time and begins swift treatment, the precautions may put a hold on the speed of the disease.
How does HIV inflict a patient?
The body fluids of an inflected person that has HIV. In fact, contrary to popular belief, the virus is so fragile that it cannot survive outside of the human body for long. These fluids include blood, breast milk, semen, vaginal secretions and anal fluids. HIV is not transmitted through sweat or urine.
It has been revealed that in the UK the most common way of acquiring HIV is through sex. Statistics from the Health Protection Agency clearly show that around 95 percent of the patients inflicted with HIV in the United Kingdom in 2011 became infected by sexual contact.
However, this is not the only method of transmission. Other methods include using a contaminated syringe, needle or other injecting equipment. This is precisely why there has been immense stress on using new syringes, needles and medical equipment. With HIV on the rise, hospitals and clinics have become even more cautious about sterilizing their equipment.
Moreover, HIV can also be transmitted from a mother to her child before birth, during pregnancy, while giving birth, or even after birth through breastfeeding.
Medical Marijuana for HIV Treatment
Even though doctors, researchers and experts are yet to reveal any precise and clear treatment for curing HIV, there are several treatments that can lessen the symptoms and generally improve the health of an HIV patient. In an illness like HIV, even the person’s general well-being is considered a blessing and an effective treatment.
A rather surprising fact is that medical marijuana is now considered and recognized as an effective treatment to lessen and mitigate the symptoms of HIV. Moreover, medical marijuana is also considered as a suitable treatment for the side effects of other antiretroviral therapies that are given to HIV patients. Medical marijuana not only releases pain, but also helps in eliminating vomiting reflexes and consequently relaxes the muscles. Moreover, it improves the appetite of those patients, which gives them energy to fight against an illness and gain their lost energy.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has recognized medical marijuana as an effective treatment that might not be able to wholly treat but can still offer broad-spectrum relief, which cannot be offered by any other drug or treatment technique.
Insite is also working on coming up with effective HIV treatment. Insite is a legally supervised drug injection site, which is located in North America. It is one of its kind and that makes it very important.
Whether medical marijuana can be used to completely cure HIV is a question that still needs immense research and experiments to be answered, but there is no denying that it can ease the life of HIV patients; at times, that is all that is demanded. Nonetheless, there will be a great deal of research on medical marijuana in the coming years.