Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a life threatening disease that weakens a person’s immune system and their ability to fight off infections and cancer. It is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which can be transmitted sexually, through blood transfusions, unsterilized hypodermic needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breast feeding. HIV destroys a person’s CD4/T-Cells whose primary function is to fight off disease. An individual with HIV is said to have AIDS when he/she begins to form serious infections and cancers as a result of their T-Cell count dropping to below 200.

Symptoms of the early onset of HIV include: painfully swollen lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, diarrhea, rapid and unhealthy weight loss, cough, and shortness of breath.

As HIV progresses into AIDS and the sufferer’s immune system has been severely damaged, symptoms of the disease begin to include: persistent fevers, soaking night sweats, insomnia, severe and constant cough, chronic diarrhea, lesions and white spots throughout one’s mouth, headaches and migraines, severe fatigue, blurred and distorted vision, dangerously rapid weight loss and anorexia (wasting syndrome), skin rashes and bumps, nausea and vomiting, and severe anxiety, depression, and possible psychosis.

While there have been developments in drugs and therapies that help to manage HIV/AIDS and to prolong the life of the sufferer, these therapies are oftentimes expensive, and they only work to slow disease progression. There is still no known cure to date, and HIV/AIDS continues to decimate populations in 3rd world countries.

Using Cannabis to Treat HIV/AIDS

Cannabis is a complex medicinal plant that may actually be used to treat a variety of debilitating symptoms caused by a surprisingly large number of ailments. Its usefulness as a non-lethal medicine (you cannot die from an overdose of cannabis) cannot be overstated and its versatility in terms of how it can be consumed and as to how it can be useful for so many illnesses is something to be excited about. However, it is important to remember that consulting with your primary care physician should be your first priority when considering incorporating cannabis into one’s medical regiment and that cannabis is to be used as an adjunct therapy and not a replacement. It is also your responsibility to communicate with your doctor as to how your use of cannabis has affected your health and of your progress with utilizing medical cannabis.

With that said, exciting studies since the 90s have shown that cannabis may be quite useful for treating individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS for the following reasons: reducing neuropathic pain and pain in general; reducing anxiety and depression; helping to manage nausea and vomiting; stimulating appetite to combat weight loss caused by wasting syndrome; helping to combat insomnia; helping to reduce painful inflammations (skin, sores, muscles, lymph glands); and with protecting the central nervous and immune systems.

Beneficial Cannabinoids and Terpenoids Useful for Treating HIV/AIDS

While much of the medical and scientific studies over the past two decades have been interested in Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for its ability to help significantly reduce pain and stimulate a sufferer’s appetite to combat weight loss caused by Wasting Syndrome, the cannabis plant also offers a plethora of therapeutic benefits and contains cannabinoids and terpenoid compounds that are useful for treating a multitude of the symptoms of HIV/AIDS.

In fact, the following chart denotes which cannabinoids and terpenoids also work synergistically with each other for possible therapeutic benefit. It may be beneficial to seek out strains that contain these cannabinoids and terpenoids.


Understanding medical cannabis. Elemental Wellness Center, 2014 Jul.

Endocannabinoids affect innate immunity of Muller glia during HIV-1 Tat cytotoxicity. Krishnan, Gopinath, et al.
Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, 2014 Mar, 59: 10-23.

The current situation with cannabinoids. Kicman, Andrew T, et al.
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The analgesic potential of cannabinoids. Elikottil, Jaseena, et al.
Journal of Opioid Management, 2013 Jul 30, 5(6): 341-357.

The therapeutic potential of cannabis and cannabinoids. Grotenhermen, Franjo, et al.
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Cannabinoid receptor 2-mediated attenuation of CXCR4-tropic HIV infection in primary CD4+ cells. Costantino, Cristina Maria, et al.
PLOS ONE, 2012 Mar 20, (online publication).

Activation of cannabinoid type 2 receptors inhibits HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein gp120-induced synapse loss. Kim, Hee Jung, et al.
Molecular Pharmacology, 2011 Jun 13, 80(3): 357-366.

Cannabinoid administration attenuates the progression of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus. Molina, Patricia E, et al.
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, 2011 May 25, 27(6).

Cannabinoids inhibit HIV-1 GP120-mediated insults in brain microvascular endothelial cells. Tzong-Shi, Lu, et al.
The Journal of Immunology, 2008 Nov 1, 181(9): 6406-6416.

Evaluation of oral cannabinoid-containing medications for the management of interferon and ribavirin-induced anorexia, nausea and weight loss in patients treated for chronic hepatitis C virus Costiniuk, Cecilia, et al.
Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, 2008 Apr, 22(4): 376-380.

Marijuana as therapy for people living with HIV/AIDS: social and health aspects. Fogarty, A., et al.
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Dronabinol and marijuana in HIV-positive marijuana smokers: caloric intake, mood, and sleep. Haney, Margaret, et al.
JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 2007 Aug 15, 45(5): 545-554.

Use of dronabinol improves appetite and reverses weight loss in HIV/AIDS-infected patients. DeJesus, Edwin, et al.
JIAPAC Journal of International Association of Providers of AIDS Care, 2007 Jun, 6(2): 95-100.

Cannabinoids in medicine: a review of their therapeutic potential. Ben Amar, Mohamed
Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2006 Apr 21, 105(1-2): 1-25.

Cannabinoid receptors in microglia of the central nervous system: immune functional relevance. Cabral, G.A., et al.
JLB Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 2005 Dec, 78(6): 1192-1197.

Cannabis use in HIV for pain and other medical symptoms. Woolridge, Emily, et al.
Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 2005 Apr, 29(4): 358-367.

The medicinal use of cannabis in the UK: results of a nationwide survey. Ware, Mark A, et al.
The International Journal of Clinical Practice, 2005 Mar, 59(3): 291-295.

Patterns of marijuana use among patients with HIV/AIDS followed in a public health care setting. Prentiss, Diane, et al.
JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 2004 Jan 1, 35(1): 38-45.

Cannabis use by persons living with HIV/AIDS: patterns and prevalence of use. Ware, Mark A, et al.
Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, 2003, 3(2): 3-15.

Therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in CNS disease. Croxford, Ludovic J
CNS Drugs, 2003 Mar, 17(3): 179-202.

Marijuana use in HIV-positive and AIDS patients. Sidney, Stephen.
Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, 2001, 1(3-4): 35-41.

Medical marijuana and the AIDS crisis. Werner, Clinton A.
Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, 2001, 1(3-4): 17-33.

Therapeutic cannabis (marijuana) as an antiemetic and appetite stimulant in persons with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Bayer, Richard E.
Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, 2001, 1(3-4): 5-16.

Who is using cannabis as a medicine and why: an exploratory study. Ogborne, Alan C, et al.
Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2000, 32(4): 435-443.

Cannabis as medicine: time for the phoenix to rise? Robson, Philip.
BMJ, 1998 Apr 4, 316(7137): 1034-1035.

Dronabinol as a treatment for anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS. Beal, Jeffrey E, et al.
Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 1995 Feb, 10(2): 89-97.

Effect of Dronabinol on Nutritional Status in HIV Infection. Struwe, Melissa, et al.
The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 1993 July, 27(7-8): 827-831.