|what is an opportunistic infection?
May 22, 2000
Hello. I have a couple of questions. My first is, What, exactly, is an opportunistic infection? I mean, does the fact that I am HIV+ make any malady I may have (be it the flu or shingles or whatever)an O.I.? Also, as I did recently (several days ago) get shingles I am wondering if it is always necessary to get treatment. I had them previously, long before becoming HIV+, and was prescribed nothing more than pain-killers at the time. I am not currently on any prescribed medication, preferring to go the herbal route, and if it's a matter of choice I would rather put up with the discomfort for awhile if it means not having to take pills. Is that alright, medically speaking, for someone who is HIV+ but still quite healthy?
If it matters, my t-cell count is 400, up from 295, and my viral load is approx. 40,000, down from 65,000. I have been positive for nearly two years. Any information is appreciated. Thank you.
Response from Dr. Feinberg
An OI is one of a group of specific illnesses that occurs in people with damaged immune systems -- essentially, the germ that causes the OI is taking advantage of your weakened immunity, hence the term. Shingles is not an OI per se, since it occurs in otherwise normal, healthy people, but is often a sign that your immunity is waning. It does not have to be treated with antivirals, but may resolve more quickly if it is. HIV+s that develop "ordinary" infections, like colds or the flu, do not have OIs. If a germ is powerful enough to infect healthy people, then it isn't an OI; people with healthy immune systems do not get OIs.
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