Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

HIV Infection Overview

What is HIV infection?
A person with HIV infection is infected by the human immunodeficiency virus. HIV slowly destroys the body's immune system, which is responsible for fighting infection in the body. AIDS is the result of an HIV infection that has damaged the immune system. AIDS may develop within months of the initial HIV infection, or AIDS may take years to develop. Antiviral medications can prolong the progression to AIDS for years. Worldwide, about 38 million people are infected with HIV.

What are the symptoms of HIV infection?
Most people with HIV infection have cold or flu symptoms within two months of infection. These symptoms are so common, that most people do not realize that they have been infected by HIV. Symptoms of HIV infection include body aches, diarrhea, fatigue, weakness, rash, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and lymph gland swelling in the neck, groin, and under the arms.

How does the doctor treat HIV infection?
Medications may slow the effect that HIV has on the body, but there is no cure for HIV infection or AIDS. Antiretroviral drugs are medications for the treatment of infection by retroviruses, such as HIV. There are different classes of antiretroviral drugs, each affecting a different stage of the HIV life cycle. When several antiretroviral drugs, typically three or four, are taken in combination, the approach is known as highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART.

Continue to HIV Infection Incidence

Last Updated: Sep 25, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed HIV Infection References
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  5. Mylonakis E, Paliou M, Lally M, et al: Laboratory testing for infection with the human immunodeficiency virus: established and novel approaches. Am J Med 2000 Nov; 109(7): 568-76. [11063959]
  6. Paul SM, Sensakovic J, Podhurst LS, Morgan DH, Triano-Davis W. Managing HIV/AIDS patients. N J Med. 1998 May;95(5):55-60. [16013158]
  7. Treatment guidelines from the Medical Letter: Drugs for HIV Infection. Treat Guidel Med Lett 2004 Jan; 2(17): 1-8. [15529108]
  8. Varghese GK, Crane LR: Evaluation and treatment of HIV-related illnesses in the emergency department. Ann Emerg Med 1994. Sep. (3): 503-11. [8080146]
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