Treating HIV and AIDS with Medical Marijuana

It is estimated that about 1,189,700 people in the United States have been diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Living with HIV and AIDS can be challenging, as not all mainstream medications work well for everyone. However, as the benefits of medical marijuana have come to light in recent years, some people living with HIV and AIDS turn to medical cannabis in hopes of finding relief. HIV and AIDS are on the qualifying conditions list for medical marijuana use in Florida.

What is HIV?

HIV is a virus that attacks the cells in your body that help fight off infection and disease. Unfortunately, this makes the virus carrier susceptible to other infections and illnesses and may lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Currently, there is no known cure for HIV, making it a lifelong infection.

While there is no cure, there are treatments that may help those with HIV manage the virus and prolong their life. However, these treatments sometimes come with a wide range of side effects that are difficult to deal with. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, has shown to be effective in treating the symptoms associated with HIV and AIDS with fewer side effects.

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Are AIDS and HIV the Same Thing?

HIV and AIDS are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. HIV is a virus that attacks the body's immune system and, if left untreated, may lead to AIDS. AIDS is the most advanced stage of an HIV infection and may dramatically reduce the lifespan of someone who contracts it.

What Are the Different Stages of HIV?

When it comes to the progression of HIV, there are three different stages:

Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection

This is the earliest stage of HIV and typically develops within two to four weeks after exposure to the virus. People with acute HIV infections may experience flu-like symptoms such as a fever, headache, and rash.

During the first stage, the level of HIV in the blood is very high. This makes it easier for the virus to spread to other people. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a treatment that may be started during this stage to slow or prevent the virus from progressing. Starting ART early on is crucial because it may dramatically reduce the risk of developing AIDS.


Stage 2: Chronic HIV Infection

A chronic HIV infection, also known as an asymptomatic HIV infection or clinical latency, is the second stage of the virus. During this stage, the virus is still active but reproduces at very low levels. As a result, people with a chronic HIV infection often don't experience any symptoms and may not even know they have the virus.

If left untreated, chronic HIV infections may progress to AIDS. On the other hand, people who take antiretroviral therapy (ART) and maintain an undetectable viral load (the amount of HIV in the blood) may have no risk of transmitting the virus to others.

Stage 3: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

The most severe and final stage of an HIV infection is AIDS. AIDS is a debilitating and often deadly condition that weakens the body's immune system. Without proper treatment, those with AIDS usually have a life expectancy of a few years after diagnosis.

CD4 cells are a type of white blood cell that helps fight off infection. Unfortunately, people with AIDS have a dramatically reduced number of CD4 cells, making them susceptible to other infections and illnesses. According to HIV.Gov,  AIDS is usually diagnosed when the number of CD4 cells in the blood falls below 200 (healthy adults typically have between 500 and 1,200).

What Causes HIV?

The only way to contract HIV is through contact with certain bodily fluids of someone who already has the virus. These fluids include:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Pre-seminal fluid
  • Rectal fluids
  • Vaginal fluids

One of the most common ways people contract HIV is through unprotected sexual intercourse with someone who has the virus. HIV may also be spread through blood transfusions and from a mother to her child during pregnancy.

Cannabis treatment for HIV/AIDS has also shown potential to improve overall gut function to reduce symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and even nausea. However, the benefits of medical marijuana for HIV and AIDS patients is not simply physical, with numerous studies reporting the role of the endocannabinoid system in potentially reducing both depression and anxiety. 

Symptoms of HIV and AIDs

The symptoms of HIV differ depending on the stage of infection. While HIV and AIDS may be asymptomatic, you may also experience the following symptoms.

Stage 1: Symptoms of an Acute HIV Infection

The earliest stage of HIV, acute HIV infection, may cause symptoms such as:

  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Joint Pain
  • Fever
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes
  • Sore Throat
  • Sores in Throat
  • Diarrhea


Stage 2: Symptoms of a Chronic HIV Infection

While this stage is often asymptomatic, some people may experience the following symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Cold
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Exhaustion
  • Weight Loss
  • Shingles
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain
  • Changes in Memory

 Stage 3: Symptoms of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

The most advanced stage of HIV is AIDS. AIDS symptoms may differ from person to person but often include:

  • Weight Loss
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes
  • Rashes
  • Night Sweats
  • Diarrhea
  • White spots on tongue or mouth
  • Dementia
  • Pain
  • Neuropathy
  • Skin Infections
  • Respiratory Infections
  • Gastrointestinal Infections

Current Treatments for HIV and AIDS

Currently, there is no cure for HIV or AIDS. However, there are medications that have shown to provide relief from symptoms and aid in controlling the virus. As mentioned above, antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a treatment used to slow the progression of HIV and prevent transmission. Most people can get the virus under control through medication within six months.

Furthermore, medical cannabis has been a promising way for patients to find amble relief from the symptoms of HIV and AIDS. Medical marijuana has been successful in alleviating pain, anxiety, nausea, depression, and other common symptoms. It is also a great way to increase appetite, which is often an issue for people with HIV/AIDS.

If you or a loved one have HIV or AIDS, contact a Florida medical marijuana doctor today.

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How Does Medical Marijuana Help HIV and AIDS?

Studies have shown that using medical cannabis may help treat HIV by reducing the viral load, thus causing the progression of the disease to slow down.

Additionally, medical marijuana has been found to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV by:

  • Increasing appetite
  • Improving mental health
  • Treating neuropathy pain
  • Reducing nausea
  • Improving overall mood

Using medical marijuana activates receptors known as CB1. This receptor is a part of the endocannabinoid system and works to stimulate your appetite and control nausea. Furthermore, cannabis also improves gut function, which reduces symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Additionally, HIV and AIDS patients have also found that medical marijuana has helped reduce psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression.


How Medical Cannabis Works for HIV and AIDS

Aside from treating symptoms of HIV and AIDS, medical cannabis may assist in treating seizures, ALS, cancer, and many other conditions. Those who use medical marijuana have reported a tremendous improvement in their quality of life.

Medical cannabis works to treat conditions by interacting with receptors in the endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for regulating appetite, mood, memory, and pain sensitivity. Medical marijuana contains two primary compounds known as THC and CBD, which work together to activate these receptors.

Potential Side Effects of Cannabis for HIV

There are a few potential side effects associated with using cannabis for HIV/AIDS. However, these side effects are typically mild and easily managed. Some of the most common side effects include changes in:

  • Sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Memory
  • Appetite
  • Mood
  • Reaction time
  • Paranoia

If you experience any of these side effects, speak with your medical marijuana doctor about adjusting your dosage or using different strains of cannabis.

Suggested Strains for HIV and AIDS

Several strains of medical marijuana have been found to offer some benefits for treating the symptoms associated with HIV and AIDS. These include:

Green Crack

This Sativa strain is particularly known for its ability to boost energy and treat pain. In addition, the cerebral effects of Green Crack may help HIV patients focus and improve their mood.

Blue Dream

Blue Dream helps those with HIV and AIDS by relieving anxiety, depression, and pain. This strain also helps reduce nausea. This hybrid strain has a blueberry flavor, and users often feel uplifted after using it.

Sour Diesel

Sour Diesel, or Sour D for short, is a Sativa strain that helps patients with HIV or AIDS improve their mood and treat pain. This diesel-flavored strain is also great for treating nausea and increasing appetite. If you feel fatigued due to HIV or AIDS, Sour Diesel may be the right choice for you as it often provides an energy boost.

Girl Scout Cookies

This Indica-dominate strain is known for its euphoric effects and full-body relaxation. In addition, the Girl Scout Cookies strain is an excellent option for those with HIV or AIDS because of its ability to relieve chronic pain and nausea.

Suggested Terpenes for HIV and AIDS

Choosing a strain with the right terpenes may also help to alleviate symptoms of HIV and AIDS. Some of the best terpenes for treating those with HIV or AIDS include:


This terpene is found in both Girl Scout Cookies and Sour Diesel. Caryophyllene has black pepper, cinnamon, and oregano flavor profiles. Those with HIV or AIDS may benefit from this terpene because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties.


This terpene is found in high concentrations in strains such as Blue Dream and Green Crack. Myrcene has anti-inflammatory effects and analgesic properties, which may help relieve pain and inflammation in HIV patients.

Get a Medical Marijuana Card for HIV or AIDS

To learn more about how medical marijuana may help you manage your HIV/AIDS symptoms and improve your quality of life, contact us today. If you are a Florida resident, Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics of Florida can help you determine if you qualify for treatment.

Medical Marijuana Doctors Near Me

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS in Florida and are interested in how medical marijuana may be able to help you, take our qualification survey and schedule an appointment today!