Background: Marijuana is a commonly used recreational substance with purported analgesic and mood enhancing properties. Many people living with HIV identify marijuana as a palliative substance. However, through its main psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is known to influence the immune system. The effects of marijuana use in people with HIV are still controversial, with very scant literature in Black adults.
Methods: The current study determined the differences in the lymphocyte count, specifically the number cluster differentiation 4 and 8 (CD4+ and CD8+), among patients who urine drug tested negative for THC (n=70) and those who tested positive for THC (n=25). The sample included 95 Black people living with HIV, 51% female, with a mean age of 46±11years. Participants provided a urine sample for substance use testing and a trained researcher extracted clinical data from clinical charts on the day of appointment.
Results: After adjusting for demographic and HIV-related covariates, THC-positive patients had significantly higher CD4+ and CD8+ counts than their THC-negative counterparts.
Conclusion: These results extend previous HIV-related immunity findings in an underrepresented group, and suggest that THC use does not reduce immune function as measured by CD count. Further research is warranted on the overall effects of THC on immune function in HIV positive patients.
Keywords: African American; CD4+; CD8+; HIV; Marijuana; THC.
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