AIDS
Sign In

AIDS

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the late stage of HIV infection, when a person’s immune system is severely damaged and has difficulty fighting diseases and certain cancers. AIDS is diagnosed in an HIV patient when the CD4+ T helper cell count falls below a certain limit or when the patient develops a concomitant illness secondary to the weak immune system, such as, bronchial candidiasis, invasive cervical cancer.
 
 
 
 
 
Signs and Symptoms

 
Symptoms are caused by the deterioration of the immune system and the decline of CD4+ T cells that are the immune system's key infection fighters. As soon as HIV enters the body, it begins to destroy these cells. Some common symptoms include:
 
 
 
     
     
  • Diarrhoea that lasts for more than a week
  •  
  • Dry cough
  •  
  • Memory loss, depression and neurological disorders
  •  
  • Pneumonia
  •  
  • Profound, unexplained fatigue
  •  
  • Rapid weight loss
  •  
  • Recurring fever or profuse night sweats
  •  
  • Red, brown, pink or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose or eyelids
  •  
  • Swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin or neck
  •  
  • White spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth, or in the throat
     
     
     
 
Symptoms of opportunistic infections common with AIDS include:
 
 
 
     
     
  • Coma
  •  
  • Coughing and shortness of breath
  •  
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  •  
  • Fever
  •  
  • Mental symptoms such as confusion and forgetfulness
  •  
  • Nausea, abdominal cramps and vomiting
  •  
  • Seizures and lack of coordination
  •  
  • Severe, persistent diarrhoea
  •  
  • Severe headaches
  •  
  • Vision loss
  •  
  • Weight loss
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
Modes of transmission

 
These are the same as for HIV
 

 

 
 
 

 

 
Incubation period
 
The time from HIV infection to diagnosis of AIDS ranges from less than 1 year to 15 years or longer.

 

 
 
 

 

 
Management of AIDS
 
Although there is no cure for AIDS, medications have been highly effective in fighting HIV and its complications. Drug treatments help reduce the HIV viral load in the blood, keep the immune system as healthy as possible and decrease the complications that may develop secondary to AIDS. Some of the approved drugs for treating HIV and AIDS include:
 

 

 
  • Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTI), ex. abacavir
  • Protease Inhibitors (PI), ex: ampenavir
  • Fusion Inhibitors, ex: enfuvirtide
  • Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) – this is the treatment which is currently used in Malta. It is often referred to as the anti-HIV "cocktail" since it is a combination of drugs, such as protease inhibitors and other anti-retroviral medications. Compliance is essential for the treatment to be effective and to prevent viral drug resistance from developing.
  • Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTI), ex: delvaridine


 
Support services are also available to many people with AIDS. These services can help people cope with their diagnosis, reduce risk behaviour, a​nd find needed services.
 
 
 
 
 
Prevention

 
Modes of preventing AIDS are the same as those of preventing infection with HIV. Once a diagnosis of HIV is established, medical follow-up should be done to start treatment when indicated to slow down the progression of HIV to AIDS.