These diseases indicate an AIDS picture
Even though four decades have passed since HIV was discovered, it is still necessary to remember that this virus and the syndrome called AIDS are not the same thing. And do you know what that difference consists of?
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the infectious agent that reaches the human body through one of three possible routes: blood, sexual or vertical (from mother to baby). On the other hand, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a set of health conditions caused by HIV, which constitute the most serious picture of that infection.
Fortunately, today there is a wide range of drugs, known as antiretroviral that stop the replication of HIV and, therefore, prevent the person who has the virus from developing AIDS.
The bad news is that, in Latin America, about 40% of HIV cases are detected late, that is, when the immune system (which is the target of the HIV attack) is already very impaired.
This weakening of the body’s defense system opens the way to a series of conditions and diseases that are known as AIDS-defining conditions, since if the immune system were not damaged by HIV, such diseases would not occur.
What diseases lead to suspect AIDS?
When a person goes to a general practitioner because they have felt very tired, have had diarrhea that lasts for days or weeks, or have had a fever that does not subside, some alarms begin to go off.
Your doctor may order tests to look for several conditions, one of which may be for HIV infection. However, if the specialist sees certain conditions, infections or even cancers in the consultation, the diagnosis will be more inclined towards HIV.
The list of these diseases was refined after the first years of studying the virus, and today it is considered that there are more than 20 AIDS-defining conditions, as collected by The Well Project website, dedicated to informing women and girls on how to prevent HIV and how to live better if they already have it (you can see its Spanish version here).
Take into account that the health conditions on this list can only be diagnosed by a doctor, so knowing them should not lead you to intense doubt as to whether or not you have HIV. On the contrary, you may be able to observe that it is not easy to realize that a person lives with the virus, so the only way to corroborate it is to carry out a detection test.
Even so, it is worth knowing the diseases that could affect people with HIV and thus keep protection against it, such as condoms, always available.
AIDS-defining infections include:
• Candidiasis in the respiratory system (bronchi, trachea or lungs)
• Candidiasis in the throat or esophagus
• Cryptococcus (a type of fungus) infection outside the lungs
• Cytomegalovirus disease outside the liver, spleen, or lymph nodes
• Inflammation of the retina by cytomegalovirus (causes loss of vision)
• Herpes simplex, which is a sexually transmitted infection
• Tuberculosis, either in the lungs or disseminated throughout the body
Some types of cancer are typically AIDS-defining, and others strongly suspect, such as:
• Invasive cervical cancer (if occurring in women 13 years of age or older)
• Kaposi’s sarcoma (a type of cancer that manifests as dark sores on the skin)
• Some types of lymphoma (a cancer of the lymph nodes)
Other conditions or health problems that make the picture suspicious are:
• Cryptosporidiosis, that is, infection by a specific parasite in the intestine, which persists for more than a month
• Encephalopathy (a disease of the brain)
• Recurrent pneumonia (in people 13 years of age or older), especially pneumonia caused by the bacteria Pneumocystis jirovecii
• Toxoplasmosis (infection with a parasite) in the brain
As you can see, the complexity of an AIDS picture is very high, just as the damage it can do to the body is high. Fortunately, even when a person is diagnosed with AIDS, antiretroviral treatment can reverse this condition, so it is possible to recover from that scenario.
This is why it is important that you take an HIV test if you have not already done so or if you have been exposed to the virus, for example, by having sex without a condom. Remember that at AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we carry out free HIV tests and we have condoms at no cost to you. Come to our offices in your country or write to us by Whatsapp and schedule your appointment.