Infection of the body with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), results in immune system suppression by attacking and damaging the CD4 cells which are a type of white blood cells that fight infections. Without proper treatment and care, HIV progresses to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) which is an advanced symptomatic stage in HIV patients. AIDS is characterized by very low levels of CD4 cells, high HIV viral load, diarrhea, general body weakness, enlarged lymph nodes, fever, weight loss and development of opportunistic infections.
How does AIDS kill you?
As a result of excessive immune damage and suppression, the body becomes vulnerable to opportunistic infections due to viral, bacterial and fungal infections since the body is unable to properly protect itself. These life-threatening opportunistic infections are the ones that lead to death in AIDS patients. Some of the opportunistic infections in AIDS patients such as candidiasis are easily treatable. However, some, if not diagnosed earlier, can lead to death. These include;
This is a highly infectious opportunistic disease and the leading cause of death in AIDS patients caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria spread via the air. It affects the lungs and is characterized by excessive cough, body weakness, sneezing, weight loss, and increased night sweat.
Fungal and bacterial pneumonia
Pneumocystis pneumonia is a fungal infection that affects various organs primarily the lungs due to immunosuppression. It is characterized by fever, difficulty in breathing, body weakness and dry coughs and can lead to death if not treated earlier. Bacterial pneumonia as a result of infection by pneumococcus infection can also cause death in AIDS patients.
Different forms of life-threatening cancers affect AIDS patients. These include;
- Kaposi’s sarcoma:
This is the most common type of cancer in AIDS patients that is caused by human herpesvirus 8. This results in abnormal growth of blood capillaries on the skin surfaces that occur as brown blotches.
This is a type of cancer that affects the lymph nodes and is known to affect the CNS, bone marrow and other organs.
- Cervical cancer:
This affects women and is caused by human papillomavirus.
This is a fungal infection that affects the brain, spinal cord, lungs, and the heart. If not treated early it can be very fetal.
This is a highly fatal viral infection that affects the spinal cord and the brain and is characterized by paralysis, loss of cognitive functions and mental alteration.
Therefore, it is recommended to prevent HIV progression to AIDS by ensuring proper intake of antiretroviral and opportunistic treatment drugs. It is also important to ensure vaccination that helps prevent opportunistic diseases that can lead to death.