Dr. M.J. Bazos, Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis
Human immunodeficiency virus infection causes the body’s immune system to fail, resulting in a decrease in the body’s ability to fight infections. The HIV virus accomplishes this by invading and destroying the cells of the immune system. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) results from HIV infection. You can be infected with HIV but not show signs of AIDS. The virus is transmitted by sexual contact with an infected individual, by sharing contaminated needles, by blood or blood products transfused from an infected individual, or from an infected mother to her unborn child. Diagnosis of the infection is done by a blood test. The infection is considered incurable; however, with new treatment to control symptoms, survival rates are increasing. With continued research, it is hoped that the prognosis for patients with HIV infection will improve.

Living With Your Diagnosis
The initial phase of the infection may have no signs or symptoms. As the infection progresses to AIDS, the following signs and symptoms may be present: fever, night sweats, diarrhea, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, frequent recurring respiratory and skin infections, swollen glands, and mouth sores. A cancer frequently present in men who have AIDS may develop. It is called Kaposi’s sarcoma and appears as raised dark lesions on the skin.

A complete medical evaluation is needed to determine the stage of infection. Medications will be prescribed accordingly. It is important to avoid exposure
to other infections. Support groups are available in most communities. Activities are not restricted; however, it is important to get adequate rest and maintain good nutrition. Prevent exposing others to the infection by using condoms during intercourse, and by not donating blood or sperm. Human immunodeficiency virus infection cannot be transmitted through casual contact. Medications that may be included in the treatment regimen for HIV infection are AZT and the new protease inhibitors. Side effects of these medications include anemia, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, insomnia, nervousness, rash, and muscle pain. Blood tests must be done frequently to determine the effectiveness of the medications.

The DOs
• Contact local support groups.
• Avoid getting pregnant if you have the virus.
• Use condoms during sexual intercourse.
• Avoid exposure to other infections.
• Take the antiviral medications prescribed by your doctor. Maintain the scheduled times for the doses.
• Schedule rest periods.
• Maintain a well-balanced diet. Vitamin supplements may be helpful.
• Avoid eating possibly contaminated foods, such as raw eggs or unpasteurized milk.
• Avoid alcohol and drugs.
• Keep appointments for medical follow-up and blood tests.
• Inform sexual contacts of your infection so they can be tested.
The DON’Ts
• Don’t have unprotected sex.
• Don’t skip doses of your antiviral medications. Proper blood levels need to be maintained to help keep the infection under control.
• Don’t skip doctor’s appointments. Frequent medical attention is needed to monitor the condition.
• Don’t expose yourself to known infections (avoid contact with anyone who has a cold, the “flu,” or chickenpox, for example, and avoid consuming possibly contaminated food or water).
• Don’t drink alcohol or use drugs.
• Don’t share needles.
• Don’t donate blood or sperm.
When to Call Your Doctor
• If there are signs of a secondary infection: fever, cough, severe diarrhea, or skin lesions.
• If you cannot tolerate the antiviral meds because of the side effects.
• If you have weakness, nausea, or vomiting that interferes with maintaining good nutrition or fluid intake.
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