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HIV - How It Can Impact The Overall Health?

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Ishwar Gilada 97% (3672 ratings)
MBBS, DDV, FCPS, APEX, Diplomat American Board of Sexology
HIV Specialist, Mumbai  •  39 years experience
HIV - How It Can Impact The Overall Health?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a lentivirus (a genus of Retrovirus) that causes HIV infection and over a period leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), if left neglected and untreated. HIV infected person over the months to years present with various signs and symptoms; which vary according to the stages of progression of the infection and effects on the Human Immune System. 

Immune system: HIV destroys CD4 cells, the type of white blood cells that help the immune system fight off any infection or disease, and hampers cellular immune response of the body. On the other hand CD4 cells help HIV virus to set-up its factory for multiplication. Typically CD4 cells have a lifespan of ~72 days. The HIV infected CD4 cell, before the cell dies a self-cell death (Apoptosis), becomes home to producing several HIV cells that comes out as hundreds of fresh viruses to catch other CD4 cells as well as other organs and cells. When several CD4 cells are infected with HIV, get destroyed after producing several viruses, immunity gets weakened. Due to this weakened immunity response; the person tends to have opportunistic infections during that period. The systems worst affected are- respiratory (alveolar spaces), central nervous (glial cells and macrophages), gastro-intestinal (chromaffin cells) and blood (CD4 positive white blood cells). 

Respiratory System: Again due to low immune response, various respiratory infections can occur, such as pneumocystis pneumonia or PCP, tuberculosis and Kaposi's sarcoma. Nervous System: Various bacteria, fungus, and viruses can affect nervous system from other sources of infection due to low immunity response. Common conditions that can affect the nervous system due to AIDS include AIDS dementia complex, lymphoma, and toxoplasmosis, meningitis, encephalitis. These conditions of nervous systems can show symptoms of a recurrent headache, slowed thinking, poor short-term memory, and changes in behavior and coordination. 

Gastrointestinal System: Gastrointestinal disorders are the most common presentation of the HIV or AIDS. The patient having GI infection shows symptoms of prolonged or recurrent diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, abdominal pain, GI bleeding and GI tumors. The most common diseases are: Oral thrush Oral leukoplakia Salmonella, Shiegella infections, Cryprosporidial - Isospora - micro-spora diarrhoea Various effects of HIV on other different organs and functioning are as follows:

  • Mind: In most of the cases, the person infected with HIV suffers from depression. Persons affected with HIV may face lack of pleasure due to use of condoms, may not be careful for others, become suicidal. 
  • Eye: Some opportunistic infection may cause symptoms, such as blurry or double vision, watery or red eyes, pain in eyes and floating spots, sometimes becomes blind. Kidney: Apart from opportunistic infection, medications which are used for the treatment can cause renal damage in the patient.
  • Liver: Many people with HIV also show symptoms of inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is the most common condition amongst HIV patients.
  • Skin System: Skin can also get affected due to HIV infection. Dermatitis, molluscum, scabies, chickenpox, herpes, psoriasis and hives, Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer) are the most common diseases. They occur in severe form due to low immune response.
  • Musculoskeletal system: Approximately, 70 percent of HIV patients show bone, joint, or muscle involvement. It can include any inflammatory, infective, or cancerous diseases. Myositis, joint effusions, secondary tuberculosis of knee, or hip joint is the most common conditions which develop from it.

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