What are the AIDS defining conditions?
AIDS Related Dementia (Encephalopathy or ADC)
This infection can be as a direct result of HIV infection of the brain tissue. It results in a progressive loss of brain fuction, i.e. weakness and fatigue, lack of co-ordination, confusion, memory loss, incontinence, etc. NB. Slight memory loss is usual in HIV-positive individuals - it should NOT be seen as early signs of dementia.
A yeast infection (Candida albicans) also known as Thrush. This is a fairly common infection normally occurring as a cream-like substance on the tongue or as a vaginal infection in women. Oral Candida can make swallowing difficult in severe cases but can normally be treated either by an oral solution (e.g; Nystatin) and/or by anti-fungal drugs, it is a marker for AIDS if widely spread through the oesophagus and stomach.
Caused by the fungus known as Cryptococcus neoformans, this infection may affect the lungs and other organs, but principally it affects the meninges, i.e; the tissue which surrounds the brain. This infection may have a profound effect upon the individual's personality, causing headaches, optical problems, confusion, depression and an inability to speak intelligently.
This is a parasitic infection of the intestinal tract which causes acute and relentless diarrhoea. As a result, this can cause dehydration, malnutrition and the loss of crucial body salts. The dehydration can also result in low blood pressure, leaving the person in a state of clinical shock and the condition generally leaves the person with feelings of degradation and humiliation. Treatment of this condition is difficult and may require hospitalisation.
This is normally a harmless virus found in most people. Where there is a depressed immune system the virus can be life-threatening and may facilitate such illnesses as Hepatitis, Pneumonia and Glandular Fever. It may also cause blurred vision and blindness (Retinitis) and can also affect the brain (Encephalopathy) and oesophagus, intestinal tract and colon causing severe diarrhoea, weight loss, abdominal pains and ulcers. Treatments include gancyclovir/foscarnet, in the early 1990s this drug was administrated by IV achieved by a direct link to the body via a permanent line (Hickman or portocath). New treatments now include;localised implants and direct injections of gancyclovir into the eyes for CMV Retinitis, and recently drugs in tablet form.
Kaposi's Sarcoma (KS)
This is a tumour of the walls of blood vessels which appear as purplish/pink spots on the skin. It is a condition normally confined to elderly men of Mediterranean or East European origin. The sarcomas are not normally painful and do not blanche. In many cases the condition remains at skin level and is not life-threatening. In these cases, many doctors prefer not to prescribe any treatment unless it also causes psychological problems/distress by being visible, e.g; on the face, hands etc. However, in some cases the condition may spread to the mouth and throat and internal organs such as the lungs, lower intestine or bones. This is a common condition in people with AIDS. Treatments may include Chemotherapy/Radiotherapy. Camouflage techniques are also available from your specialist and through the Red Cross
This is an infection of the intestinal tract which causes acute diarrhoea. As a result, this can cause dehydration, malnutrition and the loss of crucial body salts. The dehydration can also result in low blood pressure, leaving the person in a state of clinical shock and the condition may leave the person with feelings of degradation and humiliation. Treatment of this condition may require hospitalisation.
Mycobacterium Avium Intracellulare (MAI)
This condition often shows symptoms such as; weight and appetite loss, diarrhoea, enlarged lymph nodes, liver or spleen with fatigue, weakness and anaemia. Diagnosis is normally achieved through a brain scan. Treatments used are a combination of drugs including; clarithromycin, azithromycin, ethambutol, ciprofloxacin and clofazamine. Rifabutin may be recommended as a prophylaxis.
This is a cancer of the lymph nodes around the neck, armpits and groin. Swollen lymph nodes are common in many infections and a biopsy is normally taken before a diagnosis of cancer of the lymph nodes can be made.
Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP)
This is a parasitic infection which causes fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. The condition is usually diagnosed by X-Ray, blood and sputum samples. And sometimes a Broncoscopy may be necessary. This can be done as an out-patient; hospitalisation is not necessary. PCP is a treatable condition with antibiotics such as; septrin, dapsone or pentamidine nebuliser.
This condition (Toxoplasma gondii) often affects the brain (brain abscesses) causing a variety of neurological conditions, including a form of epilepsy. It may also affect the lungs and the muscles of the heart, and can cause heart failure.
This condition can affect many parts of the body and may cause fever, drenching night sweats, shortness of breath, tiredness, swollen lymph glands and bowel disruption. The disease can also facilitate the development of other opportunistic infections such as meningitis or pneumonia.
An extremely rare and seriously life-threatening condition which affects the brain and the covering membrane, causing slow deterioration of the brain and central nervous system, which affects the lungs and the muscles of the heart, and can cause heart failure. N.B. Many of these conditions have similar problems that may not be HIV related. Should you become concerned, you are advised to contact your HIV specialist to undergo specific tests that are available to determine early signs of a more serious condition.