Thrush Infection Causes Hiv Aids

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes AIDS and damages or destroys the cells of the immune system. Over time, this virus makes sufferers more susceptible to opportunistic infections (such as the common cold) that the body would normally resist. In the worst cases, opportunistic infections can be potentially fatal for HIV or AIDS patients, as their ravaged immune systems cant properly defend their bodies. As a result, HIV is one of the deadliest sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Transmission of the Virus

HIV can be transmitted in a number of ways:

  • From Mother to Child: HIV can spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus as they both survive off of the same blood supply. Similarly, a nursing mother can transmit this virus to her baby via breast milk.
  • Through Blood: Patients receiving blood transfusions can contract HIV if they get tainted blood. While strict screening procedures have nearly eradicated this possibility in the United States, contracting HIV through blood transfusions is still prevalent in some less developed countries. Needle sharing (i.e. tattoos, drug use, etc) is another way in which people can contract HIV through the blood.
  • Through Sexual Contact: HIV can be transmitted through sexual contact when any infected bodily fluids (i.e. semen, vaginal secretions, etc) are exchanged. Oral, vaginal and anal sex valid methods of transmitting HIV.

While these are the three main ways in which people contract HIV, there are some other, more rare methods of transmission. For example, both artificial insemination with infected donated semen and organ transplants from an HIV patient will also infect someone with the HIV virus.

AIDS Prognosis and Treatment

At the present time, no cure for AIDS exists. It is always fatal if no treatment is provided. However, over the years, doctors and researchers have developed a series of drugs that can prevent HIV from developing into AIDS.

In the United States, many HIV patients can live for years after being diagnosed with this virus due to HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy). HAART refers to an antiretroviral drug regimen that interrupts the course of a viruss reproduction cycle, thereby slowing the spread and replication of it. The drugs that make up this therapy generally come from two classes, namely reverse transcriptase and protease inhibitors.

Patients on HAART drug therapy regularly receive blood tests that check their viral loads to monitor the progression of the disease. While HAART can improve T-cell counts and prolong the development of AIDS, it doesnt fully stop the virus from replicating. When an HIV patients CD4 cell count falls below 200 (or is at 14 percent of normal levels), an HIV patient has developed full-blown AIDS.

Although researchers continue working to find new treatments and possible vaccines for HIV, taking HAART has dramatically increased both the life span and the quality of life for HIV patients. Unfortunately, however, these medications tend to be costly. Consequently, HIV medications are not always available in the developing world, where HIV has caused a serious epidemic.

Thrush and HIV

Thrush, an oral infection caused by a fungus called Candida albicans, is rare in the early stages of AIDS and usually appears only when counts of helper T-cells (key cells in the immune system) fall to very low levels. While HIV patients tend to be afflicted with far more serious infections than thrush, the presence of this fungal infection tends to indicate that HIV is taking a turn for the worse.

Because HIV patients suffer from a dramatically weakened immune system, the Candida albicans organism that causes thrush can spread to the esophagus, causing a condition known as Candida esophagitis. In fact, Candida esophagitis is considered an AIDS-defining illness, a term used to describe any opportunistic illness that points out HIV is progressing into full-blown AIDS.

Treatment for Thrush for People with AIDS

The most treatment for thrush is antifungal medication that can come in any of the following forms:

  • liquid that is swished in the mouth and then swallowed
  • lozenges
  • tablets.

The normal course of treatment usually lasts anywhere from 10 to 14 days. Because antifungal medications can become ineffective in treating Candida albicans as this organism develops a resistance to medications (a fact that is especially true for late-stage HIV patients), doctors may also prescribe amphotericin B, a drug that can be effective when other medications aren’t.

The major side effect associated with antifungal medications is liver damage. As a result, doctors will monitor your liver function, especially if you have a history of liver disease, during the regular blood tests they perform as they track the progression of HIV.

How AIDS Patients Can Avoid Thrush

While HIV patients weakened immune systems put them at a higher risk of developing thrush, they can take certain measures to reduce their risk of contracting this infection. In fact, practicing good oral hygiene can go a long way in keeping the mouth healthy and preventing thrush. Having good oral hygiene means:

  • brushing teeth after each meal
  • flossing once a day
  • gargling with antiseptic mouth washes (e.g., Listerine®)
  • quitting smoking (if applicable).

If severe thrush yeast infections or Candida esophagitis reoccur, your doctor may prescribe you oral medications to reduce your risk of developing thrush.

Along with keeping your mouth clean and healthy, eating a healthy diet that is low in sugar, limits alcohol consumption and is high in dairy can prevent thrush outbreaks. If you think you have thrush or other fungal infections, consult your doctor for diagnosis and proper treatment.

Resources

Cichocki, Mark R.N. (2007). HIV/AIDS: Thrush. Retrieved July 14, 2007 from the About.com Web site: http://aids.about.com/cs/conditions/a/thrush.htm.

CNN Health/Library (2005). Oral Thrush. Retrieved July 14, 2007 from the CNN Web site: http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/DS/00408.html.

Medline Plus: Medical Encyclopedia (2006). AIDS. Retrieved July 14, 2007 from the Medline Plus Web site:http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000594.htm.

Medline Plus: Medical Encyclopedia (2005) Thrush. Retrieved July 14, 2007 from the Medline Plus Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000626.htm.