Palliative Care in AIDS: What to Know?

HIV is a virus that is carried from person to person through bodily fluids like semen or blood. The virus damages the immune system and can cause infection and illness. AIDS is the advanced stage of  HIV virus, and it aggressively attacks white blood cells. Because of this, AIDS can lead to other infections and cancer. 

In the United States, many people with HIV do not develop AIDS. There are many effective medications that people can take to stop the progression of HIV, and ultimately, AIDS. In fact, with the right treatment and care, people with HIV can live a normal lifespan.

A person is considered to progress to AIDS once the number of CD4 cells falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. When this happens, the immune system becomes badly damaged and the person is prone to infections and serious illness. Without treatment, people with AIDS have a lifespan of about three years. 

What Does AIDS Do to the Body? 

AIDS is the late stage of the HIV infection that occurs when the immune system is badly damaged. This is why it’s so important to get tested, as testing can diagnose the virus early on, plus keep on top of the amount of viral load in the body. Both self-tests and in-person tests are available. 

People taking antiviral medications may not have any symptoms for years. However, as the virus multiplies and destroys immune cells, it’s possible to experience fever, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes. If the virus is left untreated, it can progress further and turn into AIDS in about 8 to 10 years. 

The symptoms of AIDS include: 

  • Sweats or chills
  • Recurring fever
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss 
  • Skin rashes or bumps
  • White spots/lesions in mouth 
  • Chronic diarrhea 
  • Excessive fatigue 

How Palliative Care Can Help with AIDS 

If you’re living with HIV/AIDS, palliative care can help by managing your symptoms and treatment side effects. Since there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, it’s possible to suffer a number of symptoms from the medications and the infection itself. 

A palliative care clinician will spend time with you and your family so that you can achieve the best quality of life. Regardless of the stage of the illness, palliative care aims to address the physical, emotional and spiritual challenges that you may face due to your diagnosis. 

Here are some of the ways that palliative care can help you manage HIV/AIDS

  • Stopping the progression of HIV. As mentioned above, most people in the U.S. with HIV do not progress to AIDS. Palliative care can help determine the best medications for slowing or stopping progression. 
  • Managing symptoms. If you have HIV/AIDS, you’re more likely to suffer from symptoms caused by opportunistic infections, the virus itself and the side effects of the medications. Palliative care can help you manage all of these symptoms. 
  • Support for the family. Palliative care even provides support to the family. It can be challenging for family members to accept this diagnosis. However, with the right support and education, your family members will learn how to be supportive. 

VNA Health Group has a number of services for those with HIV/AIDS, including HIV case management services and palliative care. 

Get Palliative Care for HIV/AIDS 

If you were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, it’s important to be open to receiving as much help and support as possible. There is no cure for this infection, which means you’ll be managing the symptoms for the rest of your life. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support you and your family!

05.20.2023

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