Treatment of HIV Infection


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Treatment of HIV Infection

  1. 1. Alternative Names Human immunodeficiency virus infection Causes The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can be spread by the following: • Through sexual contact - including oral, vaginal, and anal sex • Through blood - through blood transfusions, accidental needlesticks, or needle sharing • From mother to child - a pregnant woman can transmit the virus to her fetus through their shared blood circulation, or a nursing mother can pass it to her baby in her breast milk People who become infected with HIV may have no symptoms for up to 10 years, but they can still pass the infection to others. After being exposed to the virus, it can take up to 3 months for the HIV ELISA blood test to change from HIV negative to HIV positive. HIV has spread throughout the U.S. The disease is more common in urban areas, especially in inner cities. See also: AIDS for a more complete description of how HIV is spread.Symptoms Symptoms related to HIV are usually due to a different infection in the body. Some symptoms related to HIV infection include: • Diarrhea • Fatigue More information at
  2. 2. • Fever• Frequent vaginal yeast infections• Headache• Mouth sores, including yeast infection (thrush)• Muscle stiffness or aching• Rashes of different types, including seborrheic dermatitis• Sore throat• Swollen lymph glandsNote: Many people have no symptoms when they are diagnosed withHIV.Exams and TestsThe HIV ELISA and HIV Western blot tests detect antibodies to theHIV virus in the blood. Both tests must be positive to confirm an HIVinfection. Having these antibodies means you are infected with HIV.• If the test is negative (no antibodies found) and you have riskfactors for HIV infection, you should be retested in 3 months.• If the HIV ELISA and HIV Western blot tests are positive, otherblood tests can be done to determine how much HIV is in your bloodstream. A complete blood count (CBC) and white blood cell differential may also show abnormalities. A lower-than-normal CD4 cell count may be a sign that the virus is damaging your immune system. More information at
  3. 3. TreatmentDoctors often recommend drug therapy for patients who arecommitted to taking all their medications and have a CD4 count below500 cells/mm3 (indicating their immune system is suppressed). Somepeople, including pregnant women and people with kidney orneurological problems related to HIV, may need treatment regardlessof their CD4 count.It is extremely important for people with HIV to take all doses of theirmedications, otherwise the virus may become resistant to the drugs.Therapy always involves a combination of antiviral drugs. Pregnantwomen with HIV infection are treated to reduce the chance oftransmitting HIV to their babies.People with HIV infection need to become educated about the diseaseand treatment so that they can be active participants in makingdecisions with their health care provider.Support GroupsSee: AIDS - support groupOutlook (Prognosis)HIV is a chronic medical condition that can be treated, but not yetcured. There are effective ways to prevent complications and delay,but not always prevent, progression to AIDS.Almost all people infected with HIV will develop AIDS if not treated.However, there is a small group of people who develop AIDS veryslowly, or never at all. These patients are called long-termnonprogressors. More information at
  4. 4. • HIV dementia • HIV lipodystrophy • Opportunistic infections • Bacillary angiomatosis • Candidiasis • Cytomegalovirus infection • Cryptococcal infection • Cryptosporidium enterocolitis (or other protozoal infections) • Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) infection • Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (previously called Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia or PCP) • Salmonella infection in the bloodstream • Toxoplasmosis • Tuberculosis (in the lungs or spread throughout the body) • Viral infection of the brain (progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy) When to Contact a Medical Professional Call your health care provider if you have had a possible or actual exposure to AIDS or HIV infection. Prevention • Avoid injecting illicit drugs. If you use injected drugs, avoid sharing needles or syringes. Always use new needles. (Boiling or cleaning them with alcohol does not guarantee that theyre sterile and safe.) • Avoid oral, vaginal, or anal contact with semen from HIV-infected people. • Avoid unprotected anal intercourse, since it causes small tears in the rectal tissues, through which HIV in an infected partners semen may enter directly into the other partners blood. • If you have sex with people who use injected drugs, always use condoms. More information at  
  5. 5. • If you have sex with many people or with people who have multiplepartners, always use condoms.• People with AIDS or who have had positive HIV antibody tests canpass the disease on to others. They should not donate blood, plasma,body organs, or sperm. They should not exchange genital fluids duringsexual activity.• Safer sex behaviors may reduce the risk of getting the infection.There is still a slight risk of getting the infection even if you practice"safe sex" by using condoms. Abstinence is the only sure way toprevent sexual transmission of the virus.• Use protection when having sexual contact with people you knowor suspect of being infected with HIV. Even better, use protection forALL sexual contact. More information at