While some data has been collected on how marijuana affects HIV symptoms, there has yet to be a large-scale study on the topic; however, researchers at the University of Florida are getting ready to change that.
According to the UF Department of Epidemiology, the National Institute on Drug Abuse recently awarded a $3.2 million grant to Robert L. Cook, MD, MPH, Professor in Epidemiology, Director of the Southern HIV and Alcohol Research Consortium and Chair of the Florida Consortium for HIV/AIDS Research, to study how marijuana affects HIV symptoms in Floridian patients.
“Marijuana use is increasingly common in persons living with HIV infection. Yet, past findings regarding the health impact of marijuana use on HIV have been limited and inconclusive,” Cook said, as reported by UF Health. “The long-term goal of this research is to provide patients, clinicians and public health authorities with information to guide clinical and safety recommendations for marijuana use.”
Four hundred Floridians suffering from HIV who currently use marijuana will participate in the five-year study, which UF Health believes will be the largest and most comprehensive research conducted to date on how marijuana affects HIV symptoms. The study will also investigate HIV viral suppression, levels of HIV particles in the blood, chronic inflammation markers, cognitive and behavioral elements and quality of life.
According to UF Health, Florida has the highest rate in the United States for new HIV infections and the third-highest number of HIV patients, with almost half being 50 or older, so the launch of this study comes at a critical time for the Sunshine State.
“We expect the study to contribute to clinical and public health guidelines, while also addressing knowledge gaps about how much marijuana is ‘too much’ and how the effects of marijuana may be different in older individuals,” Cook said.
The voters of Florida approved medical marijuana legalization on Nov. 8, 2016, with HIV/AIDS included as a qualifying condition.