How does HIV affect the body?

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  • HIV can have devastating effects on the body. There may not be any serious symptoms for ten years or more, but if untreated the fatal illness AIDS will develop. HIV seriously affects the immune system and leaves it open to infection from numerous sources. People with HIV can develop cancers such as Kaposi's sarcoma, lymphoma, cervical cancer, and cancer of the rectum. HIV can affect the brain, kidneys, heart, and other organs, causing severe and life-threatening symptoms.
  • General: Opportunistic infections are conditions that occur in individuals who have weakened immune systems. The organisms (bacteria, fungi, or viruses) that cause these infections do not cause illnesses in patients who have healthy immune systems because they are able to fight off the infection. The most common opportunistic infections associated with HIV and AIDS are Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia, Mycobacterium aviumcomplex (MAC), toxoplasmosis, and tuberculosis. Patients at risk of developing these infections typically receive medication to prevent infections.

    Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia: Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (formerly called Pneumocystis cariniior PCP) is the most common opportunistic infection among HIV patients. Before antiretroviral therapy and preventative treatment was available, about 70-80% of people with HIV developed PCP. However, this number has been declining significantly over the years.

    Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC): Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC), or mycobacterium avium intracellulare (MAI), is a bacterial infection that is caused by either Mycobacterium avium or Mycobacterium intracellul are. These bacteria are commonly found in water, soil, dust, and food. In fact, these bacteria are present in almost every human. However, a healthy immune system prevents the bacteria from causing an infection. HIV/AIDS patients are at risk of developing MAC.

    Toxoplasmosis: Toxoplasmosis (toxo) is a parasitic infection that is caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii.

    Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection of the lungs, which is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Symptoms may include cough, shortness of breath, pleurisy (pain with breathing or coughing), fever, weight loss, night sweats, chills, and loss of appetite. The disease can cause serious breathing problems, which can be life threatening, especially if left untreated.

    HIV and pregnancy: Babies born to HIV-infected mothers may become infected during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.

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This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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