The last and most severe stage of HIV is AIDS. When a person has AIDS, their immune system is so damaged that they can no longer effectively fight other infections or disease. Dr. Patel, can you tell us more about AIDS?
Sure, Dr. Mayzik. People are diagnosed with AIDS when their T-cell count drops below a certain number or if they develop certain severe illnesses, called opportunistic infections. Opportunistic infections are infections that occur more frequently and are more severe in people with weakened immune systems. Some common opportunistic infections in the United States include:
- Candidiasis of the bronchi, trachea, esophagus, or lungs
- Herpes simplex virus
- Many types of pneumonia
- Toxoplasmosis, and
- Salmonella septicemia
In a weakened immune system, these opportunistic infections can cause serious health problems. Common symptoms during this stage of disease include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weakness, and
- Weight loss
People with AIDS can have a high viral load and be very infectious. Without treatment, people with AIDS typically survive about three years.