Opportunistic Infections

What are some of the other diseases I could get?

Because HIV damages your immune system, you may have a higher chance of getting certain diseases, called opportunistic infections. They are so named because an HIV-infected person’s weakened immune system gives these diseases the opportunity to develop. Fortunately, people with HIV who are taking HAART can go a long time before their immune system is damaged enough to allow an opportunistic infection to occur. That’s why it is so important to get tested and start treatment early. Many people may not know they have HIV until AIDS and an opportunistic infection develop. Many germs can cause opportunistic infections.

Examples of common opportunistic infections

Commonname Full name Pronunciation
PCP Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia NEW-mo-SIStis CA-RIN nee-eye
MAC Mycobacterium avium complex my-ko-bakavium TEER-i-um AYE-vee-um
CMV Cytomegalovirus si-to-MEG-ehlo-vi-res
TB Tuberculosis too-burr-qu-LOsis
Toxo Toxoplasmosis tok-so-plaz-MOsis
Crypto Cryptosporidiosis krip-to-spo-ride-O-sis
Hep C Hepatitis C hep-a-TI-tis C
HPV Human papilloma virus HU-man PAP-i-LO-ma VI-res

Certain symptoms can occur with opportunistic infections.

  • Breathing problems
  • Mouth problems, such as thrush (white spots), sores, change in taste, dryness, trouble swallowing, or loose teeth
  • Fever for more than 2 days
  • Weight loss
  • Change in vision or floaters (moving lines or spots in your vision)
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rashes or itching

Tell your doctor right away if you have any of these problems. Your doctor can treat most of your HIV-related problems, but sometimes you may need to go to a specialist. Visit a dentist at least twice a year, more often if you have mouth problems.

You can learn more about how to prevent the most serious opportunistic infections by reading the brochures in the CDC Opportunistic Infections series. You can get these brochures by calling CDC-INFO at 1-800-232-4636.