Shut the door on opportunistic infections

Shut the door on opportunistic infections

HIV is a virus which attacks the body’s defense system, therefore, one of the most serious consequences that it can have is to expose us to infections that wouldn’t happen if the immune system was working correctly.

The most serious stage of the HIV infection is the appearance of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (aids), which is diagnosed when T CD4 defense cells drop below 200 cells/mm3 of blood and when certain serious diseases appear, called opportunistic infections.

But what are opportunistic infections? 

Opportunistic infections are infections which would otherwise not appear if the immune system were not seriously damaged. That is how these infections occur more frequently or more seriously in people with HIV than in people who do not have it (although they are not exclusive to people with HIV).

Unfortunately, these are the diseases that many times lead someone to seek medical attention and it is then when they receive their HIV diagnosis, meaning that this is when they are diagnosed to be in an AIDS stage.

But it could also be the case that someone who does know their diagnosis is not taking the antiretroviral treatment for several reasons (decided to suspend it, changed their place of residence or lost health coverage), or, that the prescribed antiretroviral treatment is not working properly.

Among the most known opportunistic infections are yeast infections (mainly oral or vaginal), cytomegalovirus (which can affect eyesight to the point of causing blindness), the herpes simplex virus, kaposi’s sarcoma (an abnormal growth of the blood vessels) and tuberculosis, among others.

What you can do to prevent them

Just as the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends, the best way to prevent opportunistic infections is to adequately take antiretroviral treatment, since its function is to keep our immune system healthy. However, if you get any of these infections, your medical team will provide you with the proper treatment.

Secondly, certain precautions can be taken in order to avoid the aforementioned diseases, for example:

  • Get the vaccines that are available
  • Avoid being exposed to microbes which live in animal feces, saliva or skin
  • Not be exposed to tuberculosis
  • Make sure food and beverages are well cooked and/or pasteurized 
  • Ask your doctor about needed precautions, for example, when going away on a trip

Adhering to your HIV treatment will keep your immune system strong and healthy to fight infections, so if you are disciplined with this, there is nothing to worry about.
At AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we work for quality, affordable HIV care. If you want to get a free HIV test or need guidance to start or resume your treatment, contact our closest office in your country or write to us on Whatsapp.