Opportunistic Infections

By the end of 2017, over 37 million people were living with HIV. Over 21 million people living with this virus were receiving Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) in the same year. These medicines are important for those found to be HIV positive because even though they do not cure HIV, they prevent the growth of the virus which slows down the disease.

What HIV does to the body is, it attacks the body’s immune system, therefore making those who are infected susceptible to various infections; in simple terms, being at a higher risk of opportunistic infections. These are infections that can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungus and even parasites.

This article focuses on some of the common health conditions that people with HIV are most likely to develop.

Common Health Conditions for HIV Positive People

Some of the most common conditions that people with HIV are likely to get are:

Tuberculosis (TB)

This is the most common infection and the most common cause of death for people with HIV. This disease is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

The common symptoms for TB include persistent coughing, night sweats and unintended weight loss.

Intrahepatic bile duct cancer

This is a nervous system infection caused by a fungus. It is characterised by headaches, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and mental changes like confusion, among other symptoms.

Candidiasis

This is a fungal infection that affects the mucus membrane of the vagina, oesophagus, mouth or tongue.

Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP)

It is a lung infection caused by fungus. It causes thickening of the alveolar spaces which prevents the normal exchange of gases in the lungs.

Human papilloma Virus (HPV)

This is a virus that causes warts in the anus, vagina, penis, oesophagus and other body parts. It also increases the risk for cervical and anal cancer.

Liver disease

This is one of the leading causes of death for people with HIV because of the Hepatitis B and C virus which are common among HIV infected people and lead to liver damage.

Kidney disease

HIV associated nephropathy is a condition that causes inflammation of the small filters in the kidney which are responsible for removing excess fluid and wastes from the blood and passing them to the urine.

Herpes

It is a group of viruses that cause sores around the mouth or genitals, commonly referred to as cold sores.

Neurological complications

Dementia is the most common neurological condition in people with the disease.

Dementia is a condition that leads to loss of intellectual capabilities; poor judgement, memory problem and impaired thinking.

Wasting syndrome

This involves the loss of at least 10 percent of a person’s body weight and is usually accompanied by chronic weakness, diarrhoea and fever.

People with HIV also have a high risk of developing cancers like:

Kaposi’s sarcoma

This is a type of cancer that causes the formation of tumours in the lining of the blood and lymph vessels which appear purplish but on dark people they may appear black or dark brown.

Lymphoma

This is a type of cancer that starts in the white blood cells and is mostly characterised by a painless swelling on the lymph nodes in the neck, groin or armpit.

There are several other health conditions that people with HIV are at a high risk of suffering from and therefore, they should live healthy lifestyles; eating more vegetables, fruits and whole grain meals, taking ARVs as required, being positive and managing stress that can hinder a person from effectively managing the virus.

If you have HIV, ensure that you discuss your health status with your doctor; for instance, if you have another health condition so they can advice you accordingly and treat those conditions as well.

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