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Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)


HIV ranges from asymptomatic infection to severe forms of the disease (Aronstein and Thompson 1998). There is no dormant phase of the HIV infection. Rather, the body and the virus are locked in a pitched battle from the beginning. Every day the viral intruder produces a billion copies of itself, all intent on the destruction of CD-4 cells (Gorman 1996). With immune deficiency, the HIV-infected person becomes susceptible to opportunistic organisms that normally would be harmless (Aronstein and Thompson 1998).

Kaposi's sarcoma is a malignant tumor affecting the skin and mucous membranes and is usually characterized by the formation of pink to reddish-brown or bluish patches. In general, these tumors are quite rare, slow-growing, vascular in nature, and most commonly affect elderly men of Mediterranean descent. In the early AIDS cases, however, the tumors affected young white males in the United States and were found to grow and disseminate rapidly. Overwhelming infection and respiratory failure due to pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), a form of pneumonia caused by a microorganism that attacks the inner fibrous tissues of the lungs, were the leading causes of death in early AIDS cases (Bellutta 1995).

HIV-infected persons often experience acute symptoms including night sweats, sore throat, headache, fever, muscular pains, thrush, wasting, and rashes. It is estimated that more than half of the people diagnosed with AIDS at some time will display central nervous system dysfunction resulting from HIV infiltration of brain structures. The growing crisis of AIDS-related cognitive impairment ranges from mild cognitive disturbance to moderate and severe AIDS dementia complex (ADC).

Neuropsychological symptoms are typically more pronounced in the end stage of the disease; however, decreased concentration, memory loss, and confusion may be the first symptoms of AIDS.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Health IssuesAcquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) - History, Modes Of Transmission, Testing And Diagnosis, Symptoms, Treatment, Psychosocial Issues, Global Implications