AIDS related Infections

Thrush and herpes:

Thrush – or candidiasis – is a fungal infection usually affecting the mouth, throat, or vagina. The herpes simplex virus can cause oral herpes (cold sores) or genital herpes. Both infections are common, but their incidence is increased among people with HIV and can occur even among people with fairly high CD4+ cell counts.

Symptoms: Thrush causes white lumps, dry mouth and difficulty swallowing. Herpes causes painful blisters on the affected area.

Tuberculosis (TB):

TB is the leading cause of Aids deaths worldwide, with many countries facing parallel epidemics of HIV and TB. It is caused by bacteria which many people carry, but which only causes disease in some people. TB carriers with HIV are 30 times more likely to develop the disease than those without. TB attacks the lungs first, but can spread to the lymph nodes and brain.

Symptoms: Bad cough, chest pain, coughing up blood, fatigue, weight loss, fever, night sweats.

Cancer of immune system:

People with HIV are at increased risk of developing cancers of the immune system known as Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas (NHL). NHL can affect any part of the body, including the spinal cord and brain, and can be fatal within a year. It can occur at any CD4+ cell count. NHL is usually treated with chemotherapy.

Symptoms: Swollen lymph nodes, fever, night sweats and weight loss.

Malignant lesions:

Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) is cancer-like disease common among men with HIV. It causes red or purple lesions which usually appear on the skin. It can also affect the mouth, lymph nodes, gastrointestinal tract, and lungs – which can be fatal. It generally strikes patients with CD4+ cell counts below 250, but is more likely to be serious in those with lower counts.

Symptoms: Lesions, shortness of breath if it occurs in the lungs, bleeding if it occurs in gastrointestinal tract.

Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP):

PCP is an opportunistic infection which causes pneumonia. It usually targets the lungs but can also affect the lymph nodes, spleen, liver or bone marrow. Historically it has been a major killer of HIV patients, but can now be prevented and treated with drugs. It occurs mostly in people with CD4+ cell counts below 200.

Symptoms: Fever, dry cough, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing.

Brain infections:

HIV patients are also vulnerable to two infections commonly affecting the brain. Toxoplasmosis, caused by a parasite found in animals, can cause lesions on the brain. Cryptococcus – a fungus found in soil – most commonly causes meningitis, an infection of the lining of the spinal cord and brain which can cause coma and death. These infections are most common in people whose CD4+ counts are below 100.

Symptoms: Headaches, fever, vision problems, nausea and vomiting (both), weakness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking and walking (toxoplasmosis), stiff neck (meningitis).

Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC or MAI): An infection caused by bacteria found in water, dust, soil and bird droppings. These attack the lining of the gut and can eventually spread into the blood and around the body.The infection is most likely to occur in those with CD4+ cell counts below 75. Symptoms: Stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting, followed by fevers, night sweats, loss of appetite, weight loss, tiredness, diarrhea.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV):

CMV is a viral infection related to the herpes virus. In HIV patients it most commonly causes retinitis – the death of cells on the retina at the back of the eye. This can quickly lead to blindness if untreated. CMV can be controlled by drugs. The virus can also affect other parts of the body. It rarely strikes people with CD4+ counts over 100, and is most likely in those with counts of less than 50.

Symptoms (retinitis): Vision problems such as moving black spots, blurred vision and blind spots.
For further information on HIV/AIDS visit the information resources page of the Terrence Higgins Trust website at: