Opportunistic HIV Infections
Opportunistic infections are those infections that are caused due to degeneration of our immune system. Those infections that are caused as a result of loss of immunity due to HIV virus are called opportunistic HIV infections.
Our body encounters many germs. However, a normal body with a good immunity system does not face any problems in fighting these germs off. HIV spoils our immunity system in such a way, that it can no more combat these germs any more, resulting to opportunistic HIV diseases. Opportunistic infections are also caused due side-effects of harsh medications that take a toll on our immunity system for e.g., those medicines that aim to cure cancer.
During the course oh HIV it is not unusual to get exposed to the disease, but person will not be infected by it unless the CD4 count drops down to less than 50. A person, who is expecting to have got opportunistic HIV infections, should go for a blood test. The test will study the:
- Antigens, (pieces of germs that cause the infection).If antigens are present then the person is infected.
- Antibodies, (proteins that fight germs). If antibodies are detected, then the person is just exposed to opportunistic HIV infections.
Common opportunistic HIV infections
- Tuberculosis- It is an opportunistic infection caused due to bacterial attack on lungs. It can also lead to meningitis. It generally happens when the CD4 count goes below 200.
- Malaria- It happens to everyone; however, it is more severe for those, who have HIV.
- Candidiasis- It is caused due to fungus called Candida that attacks our throat, mouth and genitals, even when our CD4 cells are in good quantity. It can even spread to brain, heart, joints, and eyes.
- Herpes Simplex Virus- This is caused due to virus attack. It usually happens in mouth or in genitals. In most cases it can be treated. However, it may take a serious turn if the person is HIV positive
- Mycobacterium avium complex- This bacterial infection is generally caused when the CD4 level falls below 75. It is marked by frequent occurrence of fever, indigestion, loss of weight and loss of appetite.
- Pneumocystis Pneumonia- It is a fatal disease caused due to fungal infection, when the CD4 count goes below 200.
- Toxoplasmosis- This disease is caused due to protozoa, when the CD4 count goes below 200.
- Cytomegalovirus- It is a viral disease affecting the eyes when the CD4 count falls below 50. It can even cause blindness.
- Papillomavirus infection- This is caused due to viral infection in a woman’s anus and cervix. This disease eventually leads to cervical cancer.
Most of the opportunistic HIV infections can be treated with the help of strong retroviral drugs. Prophylaxis can prevent them from spawning further. These drugs simply help in retaining the CD4 count to above 300, so that the immune system remains strong enough to fight the IOs. However, it becomes fatal as the person moves towards the final stage of the infection, i.e. AIDS wherein no amount of effort to upgrade the CD4 count can meet the purpose of fighting these germs.