A recent study from SHARC headed by Dr. Chukwuemeka Okafor indicates that marijuana use may not have an adverse effect on viral load suppression in persons living with HIV (PLWH). The article was titled Marijuana use and viral suppression in persons receiving medical care for HIV-infection, and was published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
Dr. Okafor stated, “Marijuana use is common among people with HIV as some individuals report that marijuana relieves a wide range of symptoms, including chronic pain, nausea and loss of appetite.” However, studies on the effects of marijuana on HIV clinical outcomes are limited. This study aimed to fill that gap as it reports the effects of marijuana use on viral suppression.
The study used data from SHARC’s Medical Monitoring Project (MMP) and analyzed data collected from five annual cross-sections from 2009 to 2013. The results showed no statistically significant association between marijuana use and viral suppression.
This study is especially relevant in Florida because Florida has the third highest number of PLWH as well as the highest number of newly diagnosed HIV infections in the United States. In addition, Florida voters will consider, in November, a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana. Dr. Okafor stated, “If passed, it is possible that Florida residents with HIV may have increased access to marijuana, yet any association between marijuana use and viral suppression among those receiving medical care has not been thoroughly described.”
Dr. Okafor suggests, “Future research should include larger studies using longitudinal designs and more precise measures of the marijuana used by participants, including the cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol content.”