Bacterial, Parasitic and Viral Infections

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Bacterial, Parasitic and Viral Infections

People with advanced HIV infection are vulnerable to infections and malignancies that are called 'opportunistic infections' because they take advantage of the opportunity offered by a weakened immune system.

A partial list of the world's most common HIV-related opportunistic infections and diseases includes:

Bacterial diseases such as tuberculosis, MAC, bacterial pneumonia and septicaemia (blood poisoning)
Protozoal diseases such as toxoplasmosis, microsporidiosis, cryptosporidiosis, isopsoriasis and leishmaniasis
Fungal diseases such as PCP, candidiasis, cryptococcosis and penicilliosis
Viral diseases such as those caused by cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex and herpes zoster virus
HIV-associated malignancies such as Kaposi's sarcoma, lymphoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Different conditions typically occur at different stages of HIV infection. In early HIV disease people can develop tuberculosis, malaria, bacterial pneumonia, herpes zoster, staphylococcal skin infections and septicaemia. These are diseases that people with normal immune systems can also get, but with HIV they occur at a much higher rate. It also takes longer for a person with HIV to recover than it takes for someone with a healthy immune system.

When the immune system is very weak due to advanced HIV disease or AIDS, opportunistic infections such as PCP, toxoplasmosis and cryptococcosis develop. Some infections can spread to a number of different organs, which is known as 'disseminated' or 'systemic' disease. Many of the opportunistic infections that occur at this late stage can be fatal.

1 back to top Why is there still a need to prevent and treat opportunistic infections?

Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) can reduce the amount of HIV in someone's body and restore their immune system. The introduction of HAART has dramatically reduced the incidence of opportunistic infections among HIV-positive people who have received the drugs. Yet the prevention and treatment...

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