Taking on HIV with Cannabis: Coming Out Again
Breaking Free of HIV

Taking on HIV with Cannabis: Coming Out Again

The Day my World Stood Still

I started making plasma donations between student aid checks in college at 23 years old. The donations were my way of making additional income while focusing on my degree. Rarely enough for more than Taco Bell but the donations proved invaluable to me at the time. One week I used donation money to help pay for a trip to Denver I had made the weekend prior. What would happen next would lead to me using cannabis to take on HIV for the first time.

When it was time for my donation, I was told someone would speak with me. I thought nothing of it, assuming something was wrong with my vital signs during the previous donation. When ten minutes melted into an hour, I noticed the phlebotomists looking at me strangely. There was definitely a moment where everything sort of clicked into place in my mind. What happened next would change my life and how cannabis enabled me to take on the world, even after it seemed to be over.

Coming Out Again

My blood tested positive for HIV and everything following that thought is a blur. I made the short drive home in a panic. I was thinking about the advice of the women I spoke with who encouraged me to get a second opinion. “…Get another test done,” they said. Who was going to have more accurate tests than the people who were selling my plasma? I did eventually get someone else to check; but on that day I started the unhealthy decision to jump straight through the stages of grief to acceptance, it was also the day I told my dad.

That was hard.

Getting him comfortable with the idea I was gay was hard enough. Now I got to carry all of the 80’s AIDs scare home with none of the levels of disconnect the news provided when it happened the first time, but to my father’s benefit he accepted it and me with it immediately. There was no judgement, there was no dismissal. Just him helping me emotionally process what had to be the hardest moment of my life. I wish I could tell you it made me stronger, but now I am quantifiably less than I was before. That news derailed my entire life and altered the course I would take permanently.

Taking on HIV with Cannabis

The weeks following would fly past me and I would start my first antiviral medications. The first medication I took caused my entire body to bust out in hives and those were just the unanticipated side effects. I also got the usual blast of nausea and my appetite completely vanished with each little pill I dropped into myself. I was wasting away, unable to make it to class and incapable of keeping food down.

It was in this state of disarray I spoke with my father for the first time about using cannabis. I lived in a college town in Wyoming, a state where cannabis was not legal yet. My father asked me if I knew anyone who sold weed. One of the guys I played games with happened to and then my dad paid for my first weed purchase. Before now, I’d only smoked a few times and never got very high. Now I was going to use cannabis to take on HIV.

I weakly packed a bowl for myself that first time, with my nerdy dealer friend beside me, and started puffing on the blue pipe that I had bought in Denver a few weeks prior. To this day I am incapable of effectively describing the relief that spread throughout my battered body. The nausea, which seemed to have spread from my gut into my head faded entirely, and even the buzzing uncomfortable feeling of a low grade fever dissolved. I was still very sick, but I felt normal for the first time in days. Relief is barely sufficient to describe how I felt in that moment.

A Practical History Lesson

Cannabis is wonderful and to this day assists me in being a more competent person. HIV is not my only issue, I also carry psychiatric struggles. With proper psychiatric therapy and antiviral medications I am the most stable and successful I’ve ever been in my life. And Cannabis is a huge part of my success story. In this series I plan to show the ways people use Cannabis to take on HIV everyday.

Some Extended Resources

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