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HIV: Preventing Infections - Topic Overview

Medicines and vaccines are used to prevent infections and certain diseases (opportunistic infections) that are more common in people with HIV.

  • Primary prevention means preventing illness before it occurs. Immunizations (vaccines) are one kind of primary prevention. Medicines that kill or control the organisms that cause infections are another type of primary prevention.
  • Secondary prevention means preventing a disease that a person has already had from coming back. This is usually done with medicines that slow or prevent the growth of the organisms that cause infections.

Generally, infection with HIV doesn't make people sick, except for the flu-like illness that may develop shortly after they become infected. Most people who are infected with HIV get sick because their immune systems become weak and cannot fight off other infections. So preventing opportunistic infections is an important part of treatment for HIV.

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HIV, AIDS, and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

People with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) have a weakened immune system. As a result, they are more likely to develop certain cancers. This includes non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). Also known as AIDS-related lymphoma, this is a cancer of white blood cells. White blood cells fight infection. AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a later stage of HIV infection. Fortunately, antiretroviral therapy has cut the rate of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in HIV-positive people significantly.

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If you have been diagnosed with HIV infection, make sure that you and your partner are up to date on the following immunizations:

Work with your doctors to decide which medicines to use, based on:

  • The type of infection that is present or likely to develop.
  • Which other medicines you are already taking and the possibility that one medicine might make another less effective (negative interaction).
  • The side effects of the medicines.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 15, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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