HIV infection

  • Alternative Names

    Human immunodeficiency virus infection


    Doctors often recommend drug therapy for patients who are committed to taking all their medications and have a CD4 count below 500 cells/mm3 (indicating their immune system is suppressed). Some people, including pregnant women and people with kidney or neurological problems related to HIV, may need treatment regardless of their CD4 count.

    It is extremely important for people with HIV to take all doses of their medications, otherwise the virus may become resistant to the drugs. Therapy always involves a combination of antiviral drugs. Pregnant women with HIV infection are treated to reduce the chance of transmitting HIV to their babies.

    People with HIV infection need to become educated about the disease and treatment so that they can be active participants in making decisions with their health care provider.

    Support Groups

    See: AIDS - support group

    Expectations (prognosis)

    HIV is a chronic medical condition that can be treated, but not yet cured. There are effective ways to prevent complications and delay, but not always prevent, progression to AIDS.

    Almost all people infected with HIV will develop AIDS if not treated. However, there is a small group of people who develop AIDS very slowly, or never at all. These patients are called long-term nonprogressors.

    • Cancers
    • Chronic wasting (weight loss) from HIV infection
    • HIV dementia
    • HIV lipodystrophy
    • Opportunistic infections
      • Bacillary angiomatosis
      • Candidiasis
      • Cytomegalovirus infection
      • Cryptococcal infection
      • Cryptosporidium enterocolitis (or other protozoal infections)
      • Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) infection
      • Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (previously called Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia or PCP)
      • Salmonella infection in the bloodstream
      • Toxoplasmosis
      • Tuberculosis (in the lungs or spread throughout the body)
      • Viral infection of the brain (progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy)

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if you have had a possible or actual exposure to AIDS or HIV infection.