USF St. Petersburg campus Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate)


Paula Moreno

First Advisor

Thesis Director: Dr. Hossam Ashour University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Document Type


Publication Date



Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) affects about 40 million people world-wide; there is currently no cure for HIV or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This paper will begin by explaining viruses/retroviruses and HIV infection/progression at the molecular, cellular, and organismal level. Common drug therapy will be mentioned, followed by in-depth discussions on the processes of three different therapies that combat HIV-1 at either the molecular, cellular, or organismal level. Once the virus has been integrated in the genome, antiretroviral therapies (ART) begin. At the molecular level, gene silencing has the power to essentially “shut down” or “cut out” genes from the integrated proviral genome that therefore stop its reproduction and transmission to other cells. The machinery discussed will include CRISPR-CAS9, and short interfering RNA (siRNA). At the cellular level, cytotherapy is designed to transplant cells for replacement of damaged tissue and/or cells. The mechanisms for this will include stem cells, human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), umbilical cord blood stem cells (UCBs), and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Symptoms of HIV at the organismal level are detrimental. Medical marijuana has recently been approved in dozens of states for HIV/AIDS. Medical marijuanna has positive/beneficial effects on those who suffer with neuropathy, nausea, lack of appetite, diarrhea, undesired weight loss, depression and/or anxiety, and ultimately AIDS wasting syndrome from HIV and/or ART drugs. This paper will include not only a literary review analysis on the matter, but also an interview with someone HIV+ who uses marijuana as a therapy. This thesis will also include an outlook on the most promising therapies, HIV preventative medicine/vaccine research, as well as any disadvantages/challenges of the ones discussed.