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Pneumonias and HIV

July 3, 2014

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Viral Pneumonias

About one third of all the pneumonias in the US each year are caused by respiratory viruses. The most common viral cause of pneumonia for adults is the flu virus (influenza). The most common viral cause of pneumonia in children younger than one year of age is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). In HIV+ children, cytomegalovirus-associated pneumonias are also common.


  • Onset usually gradual; days to weeks
  • Fever, usually less than 102°F (38.8°C)
  • Cough with a small amount of mucus
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle aches


  • Most of the treatment for viral pneumonia involves rest, drinking plenty of fluid, and treating the symptoms. You can use over-the-counter medicines to reduce fever, body aches, and cough.
  • Some anti-viral drugs are available by prescription only; see your health care provider to see if any of these are right for you.


  • The influenza (flu) vaccine is recommended each year for HIV+ people since pneumonia often occurs as a complication of the flu

Tuberculosis (TB)

TB often occurs as a lung infection, but can affect almost any organ of the body. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, can spread when a person with active TB disease coughs, sneezes or spits. Tiny droplets of fluid from the lungs are carried in the air and can be inhaled by someone nearby.

In healthy people, the immune system can usually prevent the bacteria from causing symptoms of TB (active disease). In HIV+ people, the bacteria may get out of control, resulting in active disease with symptoms. TB and HIV make each other worse. Worldwide, TB is the leading cause of death in HIV+ people. For more information on TB, please see our article on Tuberculosis.

Other (Rare) Cases of Pneumonia in HIV+ People

  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Lymphocytic interstitial pneumonitis (LIP)

    • Seen generally in children under 13 years old
    • Also more common in women than men, often past age 40


Pneumonias can be very serious for HIV+ people. However, ongoing medical care allows for the effective prevention or early diagnosis and treatment of pneumonias.

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How to Prevent PCP
More on Pneumocystis Pneumonia (PCP)

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This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.

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