Opportunistic Infections 101
What's an opportunistic infection? It's a disease that preys on people with weak immune systems. That's what makes it an opportunist.
Fortunately, people with HIV who are taking therapy can go a long time before they suffer the immune damage that allows an opportunistic infection (OI) to rise up. Even people who have an AIDS diagnosis but respond well to HIV therapy can avoid an OI.
Unfortunately, there are still many people who don't even know they're infected until the virus develops into AIDS and an OI lands them in the hospital -- sometimes killing them. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one out of four people living with HIV in this country don't realize that they have it. Tell your friends and family to get tested!
A set of guidelines for preventing and treating opportunistic infections in people with HIV is available from the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), in conjunction with the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). If you have an opportunistic infection, I urge you to get a copy of the guidelines. See the end of this article for ordering information. The following is some of the updated information from the guidelines since our last story on OIs, which included transmission and symptoms (see "The Stalker Awaits," Sept./Oct. 2001 on-line or write to Positively Aware for a copy).
For More InformationYou can order a copy of the Guidelines for the Prevention of Opportunistic Infections in Persons with HIV by contacting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The document is written for medical providers, but is pretty straightforward and broken down by each OI. DHHS also has very easy-to-read brochures on many of the OIs. The toll-free number is 1-800-HIV-0440 (448-0440). Write AIDSinfo, P.O. Box 6303, Rockville, MD 20849-6303. (You can write "DHHS Guidelines" instead of AIDSinfo.) Visit www.aidsinfo.nih.gov.
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U.S. Updates Clinical Guidelines for Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections Among HIV-Exposed and HIV-Infected Children
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