University of Florida Health’s Dr. Robert Cook is lead investigator of a study starting in January that will look at the health effects of cannabis on people with HIV as well as its potential as an alternative to addictive opioids. Awarded a $3.2 million R01 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Cook and his team will conduct a study of 400 persons living with HIV infection to identify relationships between marijuana consumption and control of HIV symptoms, HIV viral suppression, markers of chronic inflammation, and cognitive or behavioral aspects of health.

Florida has the third-highest number of residents living with HIV infection in the U.S., according to a 2015 study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Was that a factor in why you developed this study?

Fifty percent of people with HIV in Florida are now 50 years old or more. So, we have a lot of older people who currently use marijuana or who are thinking about it. And we don’t have a lot of information on what happens to people over age 50.

What was the impetus for you to study the effects of cannabis on HIV?

As a clinician, I have seen a lot of patients who seem interested in trying medical marijuana for a variety of conditions. I was looking for some data to support which kinds of marijuana might be more beneficial than others and I couldn’t find any evidence so I decided we really needed to do some type of study.

Had you researched cannabis before you decided to do this study?

In the last couple of years, we have been doing some research looking at marijuana and its effects on cognitive function. We have also been looking at marijuana use in HIV viral suppression and we

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