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What is AIDS?

The acronym – AIDS – stands for:

  • Acquired: implies that you get it from an external source
  • Immune: meaning that one is protected from certain infections
  • Deficiency: depleted, impaired functioning, weakening
  • Syndrome: constellation of symptoms, signs or diseases

What are the clinical features of AIDS?

  • Drop in CD4 and T-cells and with progressive symptoms of HIV disease.
  • Drop in workload and household chores due to severe malaise.
  • The development of various cancers, especially those caused by viruses such as Kaposi’s sarcoma and cervical cancers. Kaposi’s sarcoma in light-skinned people is round brown, reddish or purple spots that develop on the skin or in the mouth. In dark-skinned clients the spots are more pigmented.
  • The development of cancers of the immune system known as lymphomas (more aggressive to treat in clients with AIDS).
  • Persistent coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Difficult and painful swallowing.
  • Seizures and lack of coordination.
  • Mental symptoms such as confusion and forgetfulness.
  • Persistent fever.
  • Severe and persistent diarrhea.
  • Vision loss.
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and muscle cramps.
  • Weight loss and extreme fatigue.
  • Severe headaches.
  • Coma.

For some, they may experience phases of intense life-threatening illness followed by phases in which they function normally.

How is AIDS managed?

  • ARV’s (given when CD4 <200, viral load high)
  • Healthy lifestyle:
  • Balanced diet, food enriched with Selenium.
  • Daily supplements.
  • Mild-moderate exercise and enough rest.
  • Protect yourself from getting cold – a reduction in body temperature will cause a further drop in immune system, thus making it ideal for opportunistic infections to develop.
  • Treatment of opportunistic diseases.

What are opportunistic infections?

Opportunistic infections are infections that enter the body due to a compromised immune system. The common opportunistic infections in AIDS are:

  • Tuberculosis (TB);
  • STI’s;
  • Septicemia;
  • Pneumonia;
  • Recurrent fungal infection of the skin and Oral Candida;
  • Unexplained fever;
  • Meningitis;
  • Frequent diarrhoea resulting in weight loss;
  • Skin diseases and other diseases such as cancers.