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HIV attacks the cells of your body's immune system. You need a strong immune system to fight off germs like bacteria and viruses, so having HIV may give those germs a better opportunity to make you sick. When germs take advantage of your weakened defense system, they are called opportunistic infections (OIs).
Opportunistic infections that other people might fight off easily could make you really sick if you have HIV. Getting one or more of these OIs could mean that your HIV has advanced to AIDS. In fact, opportunistic infections are the most common cause of death for people with HIV/AIDS. The good news is that you have plenty of ways to prevent them.
Opportunistic infections you need to know about
The CDC has made a list of more than 20 serious diseases that can become OIs if you have HIV/AIDS. You might have one of these diseases and be healthy enough to fight it off normally, but if it is hard to get rid of and lasts too long, it is considered an OI.
If you have one or more of the diseases on the CDC's list, you could be considered to have AIDS – that's why the CDC calls them AIDS-defining conditions. Here are the most common OIs:
Candidiasis, a fungal infection you can get in your mouth, throat, digestive system, or vagina
Cytomegalovirus, a viral infection that can cause blindness
Herpes simplex virus, which can cause a serious outbreak of cold sores
Mycobacterium avium complex, a bacterium that causes fever, digestive problems, and weight loss
Pneumocystis, a fungal infection that can cause a severe type of pneumonia
Toxoplasmosis, a protozoal infection that can cause brain damage
Tuberculosis, a bacterium that can infect both your lungs and your brain
Kaposi's sarcoma, a cancer often marked by red, purple, brown, or black skin blotches or nodules
Other OIs include lymphoma, encephalopathy (AIDS dementia), and wasting syndrome, often marked by weight loss, ongoing fever, diarrhea, and malnutrition.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.