The AIDS Patient and Opportunistic Infections
A person may not show signs or symptoms they have been infected with the HIV virus right away. You may
feel some flu-like symptoms but can pass it off as just a bad cold or the flu. You may have a fever, have a
sore throat, suffer from a headache, feel tired, and your glands may swell. Even though you may not be
suffering from symptoms of HIV, it is still destroying your immune system. It is not lying dormant in your
Opportunistic infections begin to appear because the immune system begins to lose its ability to fight off
infections. Microorganisms that do not normally harm a healthy body will cause problems in a body that has an
impaired immune system. Opportunistic infections can be found in the esophagus, lungs, spinal cord or brain
and the retinas of the eyes.
The immune system continues to be damaged and small infections become larger. The AIDS patient is sick
more often and may even develop a more serious disease such as cancer. Each round of illness further weakens
the immune system until it can no longer fight bacteria, fungi, and germs.
Symptoms of an opportunistic infection can be several things, and all could be caused by something else.
Infections can cause upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Sounds like the flu, right?
You may also feel tired, have a lack of energy, pain when you swallow and have a fever. Could it be a
cold? You shouldn’t take chances if you are at risk for HIV or AIDS. Other symptoms include unexplained
weight loss, confusion, forgetfulness, vision loss, and seizures. These are all symptomatic of opportunistic
infections allowed by an impaired immune system.
Did You Know?
The best and most certain way of not getting HIV or AIDS is to avoid contact with body fluids
from an infected person. Contact can occur during homosexual or heterosexual activity. Body fluids
find an opening in the body and the infection is passed to another person. The virus can get into
the vagina, anus, mouth, and eyes.
A person with an open cut or wound can allow the virus into their body. If you are in the
medical profession, it is urgent you take precautions while handling patients. Gloves, masks, and
goggles are necessary to protect from accidental infection of the HIV virus.
Research on the HIV virus and the disease of AIDS has been continuing since the early 1980’s.
The epidemic is growing and scientists and researchers are constantly working on vaccines and new
therapies for AIDS and other HIV associated conditions. There are over 30 HIV vaccines are being
tested on humans and there are many other drugs for HIV or AIDS related infections are still being
developed and tested by major laboratories. Researchers are still trying to trace how the disease
progresses and how it damages the immune system.
If you know you are HIV positive or have AIDS you must take special precautions to keep from getting even a
small infection. Be sure to cook your meat thoroughly and avoid eating undercooked fish or other
protein. Wash your hands with soap and water after you have used the rest room and after being in public
places. It may be good to carry around an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Many medications are needed to fight AIDS. A patient may be taking up to twenty pills a day to help fight the
virus and boost the immune system as much as possible. A patient may develop a strain of AIDS that is
resistant to the drugs developed to treat the disease. Some drugs have crippling side effects that degrade
the quality of life the patient is able to have. Treatment guidelines now recommend a delay in starting drug
therapy in HIV and AIDS patients if they are not showing signs of the disease. Researchers have discovered
that starting the drugs too early may cause serious results. It may make the disease drug-resistant sooner
and could limit future treatment choices. If the patient has high levels of the HIV virus in their blood,
treatment should be started immediately.
A doctor that is trained in treating patients with these diseases should treat patients who have HIV or
AIDS. A trained medical care team can help the patient decide when to start treatment.