With HIV being an immune system-damaging disease, there are many complications in your health and lifestyle that come along with it. These complications can be life-threatening and can interfere with daily life depending on the severity or nature of the complication. Below are some of the common questions and its respective answers with regards to complications of having HIV and AIDS:

What Are The Possible Complications of HIV?

There are many possible complications that an HIV-positive person may encounter because of their weak immune system. Below is a categorized list of these complications:

Common Infections

These are common infections that may affect even those people who are not diagnosed with HIV. Most of these infections can be treated with proper medication if diagnosed early.

  • Cryptosporidiosis. This disease is similar to diarrhea but in a chronic manner accompanied by severe abdominal cramps.
  • Histoplasmosis. A type of fungal infection that affects the lungs by inhaling Histoplasma capsulatum fungal spores. This can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Coccidioidomycosis. Commonly known as valley fever, this is caused by the fungus Coccidioides and it affects the lungs of a person, this can be treated with antibiotics.

Opportunistic Infections

Opportunistic Infections are classified as infections that have severe effects on people who have weak immune systems - this includes people who are diagnosed with HIV. Due to the weak immune system, the body is having a difficult time fighting off HIV-related opportunistic infections and consequently, they can be life-threatening. Below is a list of some of the opportunistic infections observed in HIV-positive population:

  • Candidiasis. Also known as thrush, this is typically a yeast infection that occurs in the mouth. It can be treated with antifungal treatment but can be lethal if left untreated
  • Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP). A form of pneumonia caused by a yeast-like fungus and is the leading cause of death amongst HIV-positive people. Being a fungal infection can be treated using proper antibiotic therapy.
  • Salmonella Infection. An infection caused by the Salmonella bacteria and affects the intestine, this can lead to death if left untreated on a person with HIV. This can be treated using antibiotics.
  • Herpes Simplex Virus. People who are diagnosed with HIV are more prone to sexually transmitted infections such as Herpes which manifests by producing ulcers in the mouth and genital areas. These can be treated also with antibiotics as long as it is diagnosed as early as possible and the HIV-positive person has been taking regular medicines to suppress HIV.


  • Lymphoma. Known as cancer of the lymph nodes, people with HIV have a higher risk of acquiring lymphoma as lymph nodes help in fighting infections and bacterias within the body. Since this type of cancer comes in various forms, treatment is dependent on the condition and type in addition to HIV treatment.
  • Kaposi’s Sarcoma. A cancerous tumor that appears in multiple locations on the skin and different areas such as nose, mouth, genitals, and anus. There are lesions that may appear in these various areas of the body. Treatment for this cancer is chemotherapy and radiation in addition to antiretroviral therapy for combating HIV.

What Are The Possible Complications of AIDS?

Since AIDS is already the final and advanced stage of HIV, there are more severe complications that come with it. Some of this include:

  • Tuberculosis. A contagious disease caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis; this disease is also one of the leading causes of death of people with HIV. The symptoms for this infection are usually a chronic cough which includes blood. It is highly recommended to be screened for TB once a person is diagnosed with HIV. In most cases, Tuberculosis is considered as a condition that confirms that HIV has progressed into AIDS.
  • Toxoplasmosis. A parasitic infection that targets people who have very low CD4 cell counts - this includes people who are already in the AIDS stage.
  • HIV-related encephalopathy. Similar to dementia, this is a degenerative brain condition that affects people with CD4 counts below 100 per cubic millimeter.

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Are There Any Specific Complications For Men?

There are no major specific complications for men, however, all complications above may occur to men who are diagnosed with HIV.

Are There Any Specific Complications For Women?

  • Vaginal Infections. Although vaginal infections such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis are common to women, women who are HIV-positive are at a higher risk of having repeated vaginal infections due to their weakened immune system.
  • Cervical Cancer. This type of cancer that occurs in women is very common to women who have HIV, especially if they are already in an advanced stage already.
  • HIV Transmission to Child. Bodily fluids are shared from a mother to child so if a woman with HIV gets pregnant, there is a high chance that HIV may be transmitted to a child. Another mode of transmission from a woman to a child is through breastfeeding. If diagnosed early, these types of complications can be managed to avoid transmission of HIV to the baby.
Mark Riegel, MD
Mark Riegel, MD

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