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Combined effects of HIV and marijuana use on neurocognitive functioning and immune status.

Authors: Thames AD, Mahmood Z, Burggren AC, Karimian A, Kuhn TP.


The current study examined the independent and combined effects of HIV and marijuana (MJ) use (no use, light use, and moderate-to-heavy use) on neurocognitive functioning among a convenience sample of HIV-positive (HIV+) and HIV-negative (HIV-) individuals recruited from HIV community care clinics and advertisements in the Greater Los Angeles area. MJ users consisted of individuals who reported regular use of MJ for at least 12 months, with last reported use within the past month. Participants included 89 HIV+ (n = 55) and HIV- (n = 34) individuals who were grouped into non-users, light users, and moderate-to-heavy users based on self-reported MJ use. Participants were administered a brief cognitive test battery and underwent laboratory testing for CD4 count and viral load. HIV+ individuals demonstrated lower performance on neurocognitive testing than controls, and moderate-to-heavy MJ users performed more poorly on neurocognitive testing than light users or non-users. Moderate-to-heavy HIV+ users performed significantly lower on learning/memory than HIV- moderate-to-heavy users (MD = -8.34; 95% CI: -16.11 to -0.56) as well as all other comparison groups. In the domain of verbal fluency, HIV+ light users outperformed HIV- light users (MD = 7.28; 95% CI: 1.62-12.39), but no HIV group differences were observed at other MJ use levels. HIV+ MJ users demonstrated lower viral load (MD = -0.58; 95% CI: -1.30 to 0.14) and higher CD4 count than non-users (MD = 137.67; 95% CI: 9.48-265.85). The current study findings extend the literature by demonstrating the complex relationship between HIV status and MJ use on neurocognitive and clinical outcomes.

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