HIV infection results in a gradual deterioration of the immune system through the de­struction of T-helper lymphocytes (Friedman-Kien & Farthing, 1990). For those who are not being treated, this decline in T-helper lymphocytes takes an average of 3 years in those who are emotionally depressed and more than 5 years in those who are nonde­pressed (B. Bower, 1992).

The average HIV-positive person who is not on any type of treatment will develop AIDS within 8 to 10 years. Flulike symptoms such as fever, sore throat, chronic swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpits, headaches, and fatigue may appear. After this pe­riod, an infected person will seem to recover, and all symptoms will disappear. Later symptoms may include significant weight loss, severe diarrhea that persists for over 1 month, night sweats, oral candidiasis, gingivitis, oral ulcers, and persistent fever (Friedman-Kien & Farthing, 1990). In addition, a person might experience persistent dizziness, confusion, and blurring of vision or hearing.

In general, the rates of HIV opportunistic illnesses (also referred to as HIV infection diseases) are similar in men and women with a few exceptions (cervical cancer may de­velop as an AIDS-defining condition in women; Hader et al., 2001). The deterioration of the immune system makes it easier for opportunistic diseases to develop. One of these is pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), a type of pneumonia that was uncommon prior to 1980. Other opportunistic diseases include toxoplasmosis, cryptococcosis,

cytomegalovirus, and Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS). KS is a rare type of blood vessel cancer that occurs in homosexual men but is rarely seen in other populations. Lesions from KS frequently occur around the ankle or foot, or they may be on the tip of nose, face, mouth, penis, eyelids, ears, chest, or back. Without treatment, two-thirds of male patients with AIDS develop KS lesions on the head and neck (Alkhuja et al., 2001). Other STIs may appear or progress quickly, such as genital warts or syphilis, which may be resistant to treatment.

 

cytomegalovirus

A virus that can lead to diarrhea, weight loss, headache, fever, confusion, or blurred vision.

 

Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS)

A rare form of cancer that often occurs in peo­ple with AIDS.

 

ReviewQuestion

Identify the various symptoms and ^opportunistic diseases that develop as a result of HIV and AIDS.

 

Question: When someone is diagnosed as having HIV, is there a chance they will never develop AIDS? If not, about how long until they get AIDS?

 

Before the advent of antiviral therapy, there was a median incubation period from the time of HIV infection to onset of AIDS symptoms of approximately 8 to 10 years (Osmond, 1998). Some people did get sick immediately after infection, and those who were taking medication lived longer with­out developing symptoms. However, at this point, research indicates that almost all peo­ple who are infected with HIV and do not receive treatment will develop AIDS at some point in their lives. However, with treatment a person may never develop AIDS.

 

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