A new study confirms that marijuana improves immunity in HIV patients. Those who test positive for previous exposure to weed have higher levels of both CD4+ and CD8+ than those testing negative who have never tried it. According to the study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, both CD4+ and CD8+ are subcategories of white blood cells that assist the immune response process.
Findings Promising for HIV Sufferers
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the scientific team, from the University of Florida Center for AIDS/HIV Research and Virginia State University, analyzed the lymphocyte count of HIV patients in urinalysis tests, focusing specifically on differences between those testing positive for THC and those testing negative for the substance.
They found that, after controlling for HIV-related and demographical covariates, that patients with positive THC results had notably higher CD4+ and CD8+ counts than their THC-negative peers did. These findings support previous studies that show daily pot consumers with higher CD4+ cell counts and lower viral loads than those using pot infrequently or never.
Although preliminary, this study establishes improved HIV-related immune levels among patients testing positive for THC compared to those testing negative, despite no statistical differences in the various HIV-related demographic covariates. This study indicates that marijuana has potential therapeutic effects for HIV sufferers, as well as symptom palliation.
Results Support Earlier Findings
Another study conducted back in 2011, demonstrated the ability of THC to slow the development of HIV. Patricia E. Molina, the study’s author, came to her results by studying rhesus monkeys. In 2014, three years after completing it, the journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses finally published Dr. Molina’s study.
However, it completely passed the mainstream media by. This is because THC is already a well-known therapy for the “wasting” symptoms associated with HIV, including loss of appetite and nausea, which became the mantra behind the whole “Munchies Saves Lives” campaign. California policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, Amanda Reiman, attended the 2011 conference where Dr. Molina presented her findings.
According to Reiman, Dr. Molina’s study “was groundbreaking and everyone was in awe.” For 17 months, Dr. Molina and her team of scientists from Louisiana State University dosed four- to six-year-old SIV-positive rhesus monkeys with concentrated THC twice a day. SIV is the simian variant of HIV. The team conducted extensive examination over a lengthy period.
Analysis of intestinal tissues before and after THC administration showed reduced tissue damage in the monkey’s stomachs, as well as a significant uptick in the quantities of normal, healthy cells. Scientists’ call THC-related gut changes “microbial translocation,” and in the course of an HIV infection, it is among the first effects of the virus, which spreads rapidly and kills large numbers of the gut and intestinal cells.
Eventually, damage to the gut worsens until the HIV virus is able to pass through the intestinal wall, where it makes its way into the bloodstream. The introduction of THC into this environment activates CB2 receptors in the gut, which begins building new, healthier bacterial cells that can block the virus and prevent it leaking through intestinal cell walls.
In plain and understandable English, THC helps keep the HIV virus in the gut and out of the bloodstream. Although HIV destroys cells protecting the intestinal walls, THC is able to rebuild them. This is what Dr. Patricia Molina says about these findings:
“When we started the study, we thought THC was going to increase viral load, the amount of HIV virus that is present in the gut. It adds to the picture and it builds a little bit more information around the potential mechanisms that might be playing a role in the modulation of the infection.” Soon, scientists will find a cure for HIV/AIDS. Until then, the role of THC in treatment is of utmost importance.