Symptoms of AIDS

AIDS symptoms are the clinical manifestations of concomitant diseases in immunodeficiency. AIDS appears during the development of HIV infection and is defined as the last stage of this disease. If HIV can be asymptomatic for a long time, then with AIDS, symptoms are inevitable. In this article, we will present the signs of end-stage immunodeficiency and how to recognize it yourself.

Criteria for the onset of the AIDS stage

If a person is infected, it does not mean that he has AIDS. When infected with HIV, the number of immune cells gradually decreases, T-helpers are most affected. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome occurs when the number of immune cells drops to 200 or less. This condition entails opportunistic diseases: viral, fungal, bacterial and other infections. Against the background of a reduced protective function, benign and malignant tumors often progress.

The diagnosis of AIDS is made after special examinations and anamnesis. From infection with the virus to the development of the last stage, an average of 9-11 years passes. This gap may be longer, sometimes a person does not encounter the terminal stage at all.

Among the criteria for the onset of AIDS, the dominant ones are: the geographical location of the patient, the quality of treatment and lifestyle. The most positive prognosis is for those who started treatment in the early stages of HIV and follow a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, it is so important to take tests for HIV infection at intervals of 2 times a year.

The terminal stage occurs faster in patients dependent on drugs and alcohol. In such a situation, the disease can progress very quickly, from the moment an AIDS diagnosis is made, death occurs within a few months. Antiretroviral therapy and the absence of bad habits can extend a patient's life by decades. In Europe in 2017, doctors shared the results of their observations: new drugs equalize the life expectancy of healthy and HIV-positive people.

Symptoms of comorbidities

AIDS occurs when the body is no longer able to control or defeat HIV infection. At this stage, patients lose weight, are easily infected with infections, and develop tumors.

Of the accompanying symptoms relevant:

This condition is not caused by the virus itself, but by opportunistic infections. Most often, patients experience inflammation of the lungs, gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system.

Infections of the lungs

Approximately 65-80% of those infected are diagnosed with pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP), which is more life-threatening than other infections. In developing countries, PC and tuberculosis remain the leading cause of death among HIV-positive people. The causative agent is a yeast-like fungus. In a healthy person, it does not cause complications, but against the background of immunodeficiency it leads to a serious condition. Symptoms include prolonged dry cough, shortness of breath, fever, night sweats. With the progress of the disease, the causative agent of PP can spread to other organs. In the lungs from the action of the fungus, the lumen of the alveoli decreases, gas exchange is disturbed, and oxygen deficiency occurs. If left untreated, PP becomes fatal.

The second problem for HIV-positive people is tuberculosis. Often people learn about their HIV status only after contacting a TB dispensary.

In the early stages, patients have quite typical symptoms, TB is localized in the lungs and responds well to treatment. With a decrease in the number of lymphocytes to 200 and below, the infection acquires an atypical course. The causative agent affects the bone and brain, gastrointestinal tract, liver, and central nervous system. In treatment, antiretroviral therapy is often delayed until TB has been eliminated. If the patient's condition does not allow stopping ART, two courses are combined. Up to the last stages, TB can be controlled and treated.

In addition to PP and TB, against the background of depressed immunity, the lungs are affected by cryptococcosis, candidiasis, cytomegalovirus infection, and others. They can occur in parallel with tuberculosis or pneumonia, which greatly complicates the treatment. "Positive" patients are prescribed prophylaxis for life or a course of bacterial and fungal pathologies.

Infections of the gastrointestinal tract

The digestive organs, especially the intestines, can suffer from the action of the virus itself and from opportunistic diseases. Most often, the gastrointestinal tract suffers from candidiasis. Candida is a fungus specific to humans. It is also found in healthy people, but the normal protective function inhibits the growth and development of fungi. With AIDS, candida and other micro-organisms are out of control.

HIV-positive individuals develop esophagitis as a result of infection or overgrowth of specific microorganisms. This is an inflammation of the lining of the esophagus. Esophagitis is caused by candida, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus and other microorganisms. Symptoms:

Opportunistic diseases affect more than just the internal organs. AIDS is characterized by rashes and sores in the mouth, white plaque. Of the pathologies of the gastrointestinal tract, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is relevant, which is accompanied by bleeding, pain in the epigastric region, and nausea.

Neurological and psychological complications

The immune system suffers the most from the immunodeficiency virus, followed by the central nervous system. A patient may have several severe pathologies at once, but the form of AIDS is determined by where the problems are most concentrated. With a neurological form, the central nervous system suffers.

Mental and neurological diseases develop when the virus enters the CNS or are the result of opportunistic diseases.

Any lesions of the nervous system are dangerous, because they lead to loss of working capacity and loss of the patient's personality. HIV-associated diseases:

  1. Cryptococcal meningitis is a fungal infection affecting the lining of the brain. Headaches, nausea and vomiting, disorientation are noted in the early stages. With progress, seizures are observed, pain and fever increase.
  2. Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy - caused by polyomavirus. Progresses quickly, leads to disruption of neural connections in the brain. Early symptoms are similar to meningitis: fever, migraines, nausea. Cognitive abilities are gradually erased, the patient's personality changes.
  3. Complex dementia AIDS - appears when microglia and macrophages are infected with the HIV virus. Carrier cells produce a neurotoxin that disrupts the brain. The symptoms are similar to dementia.

CNS damage causes patients to gradually develop cognitive impairment. In patients, the ability to read, awareness of the environment, orientation is impaired. Motor function also suffers, up to paralysis.

Behavioral disorders lead to frequent mood swings, seizures, aggression or tearfulness. The psyche can suffer from the patient's reaction to the fact of HIV infection. As a result, hypochondriacal and paranoid psychoses, depression, hysteria develop. With a combination of several types of drugs and early treatment, neurological disorders are less common.

External signs of AIDS patients

Lymphadenopathy remains the main external sign of infection. This is a persistent increase in the lymph nodes in the neck, behind the ears, in the armpits. This phenomenon occurs in almost all patients, persists for years. In addition to this symptom, outwardly AIDS can be determined by thinness. A set of concomitant diseases leads to a strong weight loss, in the severe course of AIDS, the weight can decrease to critical and the patient is unable to move.

These are the two main features that almost always occur with HIV infection. In addition to them, immunodeficiency can be determined by dermatological symptoms. These include a rash of a different nature, from pink spots to serious ulcers. In the mouth, there may be erosion and white plaque from the action of viruses, fungi, bacteria. Kaposi's sarcoma ranks first among malignant neoplasms in HIV-positive people.

This disease is characterized by the appearance of multiple dark brown patches on the skin. Such formations are localized throughout the body: on the arms, face, torso, legs.

Considering that up to 80% of “positive” patients experience lung infections, the patient may cough frequently. The cough is not necessarily dry or severe. According to the described signs, one can only suspect the disease. It is possible to accurately determine that a person has AIDS/HIV only in laboratory conditions. If you or your loved ones have similar signs, you must definitely pass tests. You can take the test free of charge at the regional AIDS Centers. If you meet a person with a combination of such harbingers, it is worth remembering that the patient will not be able to infect others with a look, breath, or even touch.

Harbingers of death

As a rule, at the terminal stage of the disease, the patient is in the hospital under the supervision of doctors. Due to external and physiological factors, from the moment of transition to the AIDS stage to death, it takes from several weeks to 3 years. Life expectancy is affected by the quality of treatment and the patient's condition, the number of opportunistic infections. Harbingers of death are considered to be increased symptoms of concomitant infections.

The body is completely weakened, the weight is greatly reduced, the organs are not able to perform their function. Even an increase in lymph nodes leads to cracks and suppuration, as the skin loses its elasticity. When the lungs are affected with a cough, sputum and blood are released, this is a sign of severe damage to the internal organs. Appetite is practically absent. An attack on the central nervous system leads to mental disorders and atypical dementia. The patient may not be able to navigate in dates, events and faces.

Any opportunistic disease is more severe. Kaposi's sarcoma covers large areas of the body, light wounds lead to suppuration and erosion. As a rule, in the last weeks and months a person cannot take proper care of himself: buy, eat, dress. Symptomatic treatment at this stage is aimed at maintaining an acceptable quality of life for the person. Infections themselves do not respond or respond poorly to treatment.

Test at home

According to WHO studies, only 70% of those infected are aware of their status. The rest do not know about HIV infection, and there is only one reason for this - they do not take tests. In Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, you can pass such a test anonymously. It is much easier to test yourself at home, for this express tests have already been released for sale. They are used when checking blood from a finger and a vein, saliva. The latter are the most convenient, since you don’t need to pierce anything, but it’s the blood that inspires confidence more.

You can buy a home test kit at pharmacies or online pharmacies. The box will contain a tablet for applying a blood sample, a mechanical "spear" for puncture, a pipette and an anticoagulant. For processing, two bags of napkins in solution are attached. The test should be carried out on a sterile and even surface, according to the instructions. It does not matter the time of day, the degree of satiety and other factors.

Venous blood testing is more difficult and best done by those with the necessary skills. The accuracy of the results does not depend on the type of testing.

4th generation tests are able to detect the disease even at early stages, and are considered the best on the market. The saliva test method has not yet gained the necessary popularity, although the accuracy of the result reaches 99.9%. For the purity of the experiment, you need to do two analyzes. If the test is positive, it is necessary to be examined in specialized centers. Sometimes a false positive result occurs in pregnant women and with other infections. A negative answer should be checked again by yourself or at the AIDS center. It's free and anonymous.

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  4. World Health Organization. – HIV/AIDS.