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Human Immunodeficiency Virus And Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome


  • HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. Once you are infected with this virus, you will probably be infected for life. HIV weakens your immune system by damaging your T-helper cells. T-cells help your body fight certain illnesses. AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. With AIDS, your number of T-cells is low, and they cannot help fight infections. To get AIDS, you must be infected with HIV and have a weakened immune system.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


Medicines or other treatments for HIV and AIDS may cause serious side effects, such as liver disease. Medicines may make you feel very tired, sick to your stomach, and you may throw up. Other side effects may include burning, tingling, and numbness in your hands, legs, and feet. If you are taking several different medicines, they may not work well together. This may make you very sick. If you are HIV-positive, your treatments may not stop you from getting AIDS. Not all AIDS-related infections and cancers can be stopped, even with treatment. If your infections or cancers are not treated, they may spread, and you could die.


Informed consent:

A consent form is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Reverse isolation:

You may be put on reverse isolation safety measures if your body is having a hard time fighting infections. You are given a private room to protect you from other people's germs. Caregivers and visitors may wear gloves, a face mask, or a gown to keep their germs away from you. Everyone should wash their hands when entering and leaving your room.

HIV and AIDS medicines:

  • Antiretroviral medicine: This medicine may be given to slow down the HIV infection. It may help you stay in long-term remission (keep the HIV infection from becoming AIDS). The antiretroviral medicines used to fight HIV are sometimes called HAART, which stands for highly active antiretroviral treatment. There are different types of medicine that may be used. Ask for more information about these and other medicines that you may need:
    • Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI):
      • Abacavir
      • Azidothymidine
      • Didanosine
      • Emtricitabine
      • Lamivudine
      • Stavudine
      • Tenofovir
      • Zalcitabine
      • Zidovudine
    • Nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI):
      • Delavirdine
      • Efavirenz
      • Etravirine
      • Nevirapine
    • Protease inhibitors (PI):
      • Amprenavir
      • Atazanavir
      • Darunavir
      • Indinavir
      • Nelfinavir
      • Ritonavir
      • Saquinavir
      • Tipranavir

Other medicines:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Antidepressants: This medicine is usually given to decrease or stop the symptoms of depression. It can also be used to treat other behavior problems.
  • Antifungal medicine: This medicine helps kill fungus that can cause illness.
  • Antinausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your stomach and prevent vomiting.
  • Pain medicine: Caregivers may give you medicine to take away or decrease your pain.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe to ask for your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease. The medicine may not work as well at controlling your pain if you wait too long to take it.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling a caregiver when you want to get out of bed or if you need help.
  • Chemotherapy: This medicine is used to treat cancer and is often called chemo. It works by killing new tumor cells, or shrinking tumors. Chemo may be used for AIDS patients when the HIV virus causes other illness or cancer.
  • Vaccines and prophylactic medicines: Prophylactic medicines help keep you from getting certain infections. Caregivers may suggest that you get shots to help keep you from getting pneumonia and hepatitis.


  • Heart monitor: This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.
  • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your oxygen level is low or cannot be read.
  • Vital signs: Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.
  • Intake and output: Caregivers will keep track of the amount of liquid you are getting. They also may need to know how much you are urinating. Ask how much liquid you should drink each day. Ask caregivers if they need to measure or collect your urine.


You may need one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. Blood tests can give your caregivers important information about your disease progression, and how well your medicines are working. These tests will check for infection and your viral load. They will also test the levels of your hormones, blood sugar, and white blood cells. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Blood gases: This is also called an arterial blood gas, or ABG. Blood is taken from an artery (blood vessel) in your wrist, arm, or groin. Your blood is tested for the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in it. The results can tell caregivers how well your lungs are working.
  • Biopsy: This is when a small piece of tissue is removed and sent to a lab for tests. A biopsy may be taken from one of many sites on or in your body.
  • Pelvic exam: This is also called an internal or vaginal exam. During a pelvic exam, feel free to ask for a woman to be present if one is not. Your caregiver gently puts a warmed speculum into your vagina. A speculum is a tool that opens your vagina. This lets your caregiver see your cervix (bottom part of your uterus). With gloved hands, your caregiver will check the size and shape of your uterus and ovaries.
  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your lungs and heart. Caregivers use it to see how your lungs and heart are doing. Caregivers may use the x-ray to look for signs of infection like pneumonia, or to look for collapsed lungs. Chest x-rays may show tumors, broken ribs, or fluid around the heart and lungs.
  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray and computer are used to take pictures of your body. You may be given dye, also called contrast, before the test. Tell the caregiver if you are allergic to dye, iodine, or seafood.
  • Lumbar puncture: This procedure may also be called a spinal tap. During a lumbar puncture, you will need to lie very still. Caregivers may give you medicine to make you lose feeling in a small area of your back. Caregivers will clean this area of your back. A needle will be put in, and fluid removed from around your spinal cord. The fluid will be sent to a lab for tests. The tests check for infection, bleeding around your brain and spinal cord, or other problems. Sometimes medicine may be put into your back to treat your illness.
  • MRI: This test is called an MRI. During the MRI, 3-D (three-dimensional) pictures are taken of your body. An MRI may be used to look at your brain, muscles, joints, bones, or blood vessels. You will need to lie still during the MRI. Never enter the MRI room with any metal objects. This can cause serious injury.


  • Oxygen: You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your caregiver before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • Radiation: Radiation may be used for AIDS patients when HIV causes other illnesses or cancer. Radiation uses x-rays or gamma rays. Radiation kills cancer and keeps it from spreading. It also keeps cancer cells from dividing, which is one way cancer spreads.
  • Nutritional supplements: Caregivers may suggest that you take vitamins and diet supplements. Vitamins B12, C, E, selenium, and zinc may be given to help your body fight off illness.


You may need to rest in bed. Your caregiver will tell you when it is OK to get out of bed. Call your caregiver before getting up for the first time. If you ever feel weak or dizzy, sit or lie down right away. Then call your caregiver.

Drinking liquids:

Adults should drink about 9 to 13 cups of liquid each day. One cup is 8 ounces. Good choices of liquids for most people include water, juice, and milk. Coffee, soup, and fruit may be counted in your daily liquid amount. Ask your caregiver how much liquid you should drink each day.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Human Immunodeficiency Virus And Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Inpatient Care)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes