Frequently Asked Questions

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, Ambulatory Care

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is the final stage of HIV. HIV kills a type of white blood cell called CD4 cells, which weakens your immune system. Your immune system becomes too weak to fight infections. A weak immune system can also lead to certain cancers and heart disease. A normal CD4 count ranges from 500 to 2000. When you have HIV, your CD4 count ranges from 200 to 500. You have AIDS when your CD4 count is less than 200 or you have one of the infections or cancers caused by AIDS.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Chronic diarrhea

  • Weight loss

  • White spots, sores, or hairy patches inside your mouth

  • Trouble breathing

  • Coughing up blood or spit

  • Fever that lasts longer than 1 month, and night sweats

  • Rash, blisters, bruises, or other skin changes

  • Hair loss or vision loss

  • Confusion and memory loss

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Fever with night sweats or vomiting

  • Coughing up blood, or you have bloody bowel movements

  • Trouble breathing

  • New vision problems

  • Headache and a stiff neck

  • Confusion and noticing changes in the way you think

  • Seizure

Treatment for AIDS

may include any of the following:

  • Antiretroviral medications slow the progression of HIV. They are given in different combinations called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Your healthcare provider will decide what kind of HAART you need and when to begin this treatment. You may need to make HAART changes if you have severe side effects, or if you develop resistance to a medicine.

  • Antidepressants may be given to improve your mood. Do not stop taking this medicine unless directed. It may take 4 to 6 weeks for antidepressants to help you feel better.

  • Antimicrobial medicines are given to kill infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or a fungus.

  • Medicines for nausea and diarrhea may be given to calm your stomach and prevent vomiting or to help relieve diarrhea.

  • Appetite stimulants may be given to help increase your energy level and appetite.

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.

  • Muscle relaxers help relax your muscles and decrease muscle spasms.

Manage AIDS:

  • Eat small amounts of food often instead of large meals. You need to eat enough calories to prevent weight loss caused by AIDS. You also need to eat protein and iron to prevent anemia, and calcium to prevent bone loss.

  • Take supplements as directed. Ask your healthcare provider if you should take calcium and vitamin D pills to prevent the loss of bone density. You may also need multivitamins.

  • Care for your mouth. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles. If you have mouth sores or pain when you swallow, rinse your mouth with salt water. Mix a ½ teaspoon of salt in a glass of water to make salt water. Do this after meals and before you go to sleep. If your mouth is dry, sip drinks often or suck on pieces of fruit. Avoid citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits. Citrus can hurt your mouth sores.

  • Treat diarrhea. Apply petroleum jelly to your anal area after bowel movements. Wash the area 3 times each day with soap and water. Avoid caffeine, dairy, and spicy foods. Diarrhea can sometimes lead to dehydration. Drink small amounts of fluid throughout the day, or drink oral rehydration solution (ORS) to prevent dehydration.

  • Breathe easier. Sit upright or in a position that allows you to breathe comfortably. Use extra pillows to support your back. Open windows for fresh air. Sip water often if you have a chronic cough.

Prevent the spread of AIDS

by informing your partners of your HIV status. Do not engage in sexual activity without a latex condom. If you inject drugs, do not share needles or syringes. Use a needle exchange program to obtain clean needles. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help to stop injecting drugs.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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