If you live with HIV, you might have other health conditions to manage as well. HIV damages your immune system, which makes you more likely to get sick from different kinds of infections and diseases. Some drugs that treat HIV can cause health problems, too.
Some of the conditions you may have include:
The weakened immune system that HIV causes can make you more likely than others to pick up infections. This is especially true in late-stage HIV that has progressed to AIDS. Some infections that are more common in people who have HIV are:
- Pneumocystis pneumonia: A type of pneumonia that starts with a fungal infection. It’s the most common pneumonia among people with HIV worldwide, but treatments have greatly slashed rates of this condition, especially in the U.S.
- Candidiasis (thrush): A common infection that causes inflammation and thick, white film on the mouth, tongue, esophagus, or vagina.
- Tuberculosis (TB): An infection that damages your lungs. Sometimes, it can also harm your kidneys, brain, and spine. If you catch it early, you can treat it. This infection is more common in developing countries.
- Cytomegalovirus: A type of herpes virus that a weakened immune system may not be able to fight. It can hurt the eyes, digestive tract, lungs, and other organs.
- Cryptococcal meningitis: An infection of the fluid around your brain and spinal cord. This type of meningitis hits the central nervous system. It comes from a fungus in soil.
- Toxoplasmosis: A parasite that cats can pass to people through their stools. It can spread to the heart and brain and be deadly.
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are liver infections. Like HIV, these viruses spread from person to person through infected blood or other body fluids. Because they spread in the same way, many people with HIV also have at least one type of hepatitis. Without treatment, it could turn into liver disease or liver cancer.
- Kaposi’s sarcoma, which spreads in patches on your skin
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which begins in the lymph nodes
- Invasive cervical cancer (The cervix connects the vagina to the uterus.)
You may also be at higher risk for cancers that affect other parts of your body, like your liver, lungs, or anus.
When you have diabetes, glucose from food can’t move into your cells. It builds up in your bloodstream instead. The inflammation that HIV causes throughout your body raises your chance of developing this condition. Also, some HIV medicines can cause weight gain, which is another risk factor for diabetes.
High Blood Pressure
When you have HIV, you’re more likely to have high blood pressure. Some HIV drugs may raise your blood pressure. Also, the long-term inflammation from HIV itself can make your arteries swell and stiffen. If you don’t treat it, high blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.
The inflammation that HIV causes can age and damage your blood vessels. Some HIV drugs can also upset the balance of fats that naturally move through your blood. You may start to have too much of the “bad” kind and not enough of the “good” type. These problems put you at risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
HIV-Related Kidney Disease
HIV can damage the small filters in your kidneys that flush toxins and extra fluid from your blood. It can also infect the cells inside your kidneys, so they don’t work the way they should. African American and Hispanic people who have HIV are at highest risk for this type of kidney disease.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
HIV can affect both your brain and nervous system. The stress of living with this condition can also impact your mental health and lead to depression. But depression is highly treatable. If you feel depressed, talk to your doctor.
Anyone with HIV can have anxiety, but you’re at a higher risk if:
- It runs in your family
- You don’t have a strong support system
- You don’t have healthy ways to cope with stress
You may notice that your anxiety gets worse at times when your HIV seems to be the focus of your life, like when you have an infection or are waiting on lab results. Like depression, anxiety can get better with treatment, so don’t keep it to yourself.
What You Can Do
It can be a challenge to keep on top of the doctor visits, medicines, tests, and procedures you may need, but do the best you can. Regular care is the best way to manage your health and avoid complications of HIV. Your HIV medications help keep your immune system strong enough to fight infections and diseases.