What is AIDS?

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is a chronic condition caused by HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus).

HIV is a virus which attacks the body’s immune system. This can hamper your ability to fight off infection and disease, causing symptoms such as fatigue, fever, weight loss, and swollen lymph nodes.

Left untreated, HIV gradually weakens the body’s immune system to the point where “opportunistic” infections and cancers start to affect you. These are diseases which you wouldn’t affect you significantly if you had a healthy immune system. A diagnosis of AIDS is generally made if you show signs of being affected by some of these infections, or your white blood cell count falls below 200.


AIDS is the final stage of HIV and is characterised by life-threatening infections and cancers. If you don’t take medication your life expectancy is significantly reduced. However, it is possible to live a very long with AIDS if you have effective treatment.

What symptoms does AIDS cause?

As there are many different kinds of opportunistic infections and cancers, the symptoms of AIDS can vary widely. Signs and symptoms include:

  • chronic diarrhoea
  • night sweats
  • persistent fatigue
  • recurring fever

How does HIV develop into AIDS?

The process by which HIV develops into AIDS can take around 10 years. During this time more and more white blood cells are destroyed and your immune system is weakened.

Can you prevent HIV from progressing to AIDS?

A range of effective HIV drugs have been developed which can combat the virus and stop it from destroying your white blood cells. Providing you continue taking the drugs, you can prevent the virus from progressing any further. This is why it’s important to see a doctor if you have any symptoms of HIV.

How is AIDS treated?

Many of the different infections that charactise AIDS can be treated. For example, if you are affected by recurrent diarrhoea, your doctor can prescribe you with anti-diarrhoea medication. You may also be given advice on how to tackle night sweats.

However, the main aim of treatment for AIDS is to tackle the HIV virus. If the virus is suppressed, your body’s immune system can start to recover and fight infections more effectively. Antiviral medication is therefore a core part of HIV/AIDS treatment.

Which type of specialist treats AIDS?

HIV/AIDs is treated by a specialist in internal medicine with a subspeciality in infectious disease.

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