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Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV destroys a specific defence cell in the body called a CD4 helper lymphocyte. These lymphocytes are the defence cells in the body that fight infections and diseases; HIV destroys these all important lymphocytes. People with the virus will then begin to get serious infections that they normally wouldn't. This is because they become immune deficient.


Late stage HIV infection is also known as AIDS infection. Left untreated, HIV will damage your immune system so much that you are likely to develop a serious, life-threatening condition. It typically takes about 10 years for the virus to damage the immune system in this way. Possible symptoms of a serious infection caused by a damaged immune system include:

  • Persistent tiredness
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent diarrhoea
  • Blurred vision
  • White spots on your tongue or mouth
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • A fever of above 37C (100F) that lasts a number of weeks
  • Swollen glands that last for more than three months

AIDS-related illnesses, such as TB, pneumonia and some cancers, may occur. Many of these can be treated to some extent and some are likely to improve if you start treatment and your CD4 count increases.


See HIV Treatment 

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This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. Please read our medical disclaimer.