Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Last Updated: July 6, 2023

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks cells within the immune system, which results in a decreased ability to fight off infection. An HIV infection can progress to a disease called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) falls under theImmunity & Infectious Diseasecategory.

What is human immunodeficiency virus?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks white blood cells in the immune system, which makes the body vulnerable to infections and certain diseases. HIV can progress to a point at which the immune system is severely damaged and unable to function adequately, and this is called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is defined by the presence of certain infections or by blood levels of a type of white blood cell called CD4 cells. [1]

What are the main signs and symptoms of human immunodeficiency virus?

Two to 4 weeks after becoming infected, a person develops a flu-like illness. Often the symptoms are mild or are ascribed to a harmless virus and are ignored. Symptoms might include the following: [1]

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Swollen glands
  • Skin rash

The virus replicates slowly, destroying white blood cells and making the immune system weaker. This process can last for up to 10 years and may not cause any symptoms.

Eventually, when the immune system has suffered severe damage, HIV leads to the development of AIDS. AIDS typically manifests with the onset of unusual cancers such as Kaposi’s sarcoma and certain types of lymphoma or by infection with organisms that take advantage of a weakened immune system, called opportunistic infections (OIs). Common OIs include the following: [2]

  • Candida
  • Herpes simplex
  • Tuberculosis
  • Certain types of pneumonia and meningitis
How is human immunodeficiency virus diagnosed?

HIV is diagnosed by a blood test. Rapid tests, called HIV antibody tests, are available that can be done at home or during a visit with the doctor and provide results within minutes. If an HIV antibody test is positive, it is vital to confirm the result with a laboratory test, either an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or a olymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. [1]

What are some of the main medical treatments for human immunodeficiency virus?

HIV infection is treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART), sometimes called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Treatment consists of tablets called antiretrovirals (ARVs). These medications prevent or slow the replication of the virus, allowing the immune system to recover from its damage. Usually, treatment begins with 3 different types of antiretroviral medications, available in one combination tablet. The treatment does not cure the virus, so it must be taken for life; however, individuals who are undergoing treatment can reach the point at which they have almost no detectable levels of virus and are nearly incapable of transmitting it to others. [1]

Have any supplements been studied for human immunodeficiency virus?

No supplement has been determined to affect HIV or restore the health of the damaged immune system. A multivitamin supplement may reduce the rate of progression of HIV in people who have specific vitamin deficiencies, and protein supplementation can be useful in individuals with HIV who struggle to get enough protein in their regular diet.[3][4] Probiotic supplements may help improve CD4 counts and minimize the gastric side effects of ART. Currently, there is not a specific recommended strain or dose of probiotic.[5]

How could diet affect human immunodeficiency virus?

Nutrition counseling after diagnosis may help to ensure adequate nutrition in people diagnosed with HIV. Although evidence does not support the use of a specific diet, it is recommended to eat a varied diet with enough protein, vitamins, and minerals. [6] [3] In low-income areas where food availability is a concern and diets may lack variety, a multivitamin is recommended for everyone diagnosed with HIV. [4]

Are there any other treatments for human immunodeficiency virus?

Research is ongoing on injectable long-acting ARVs that are administered only every 1–2 months, rather than as a daily tablet, as well as implants that could last a year. Although neither of these treatments are currently available, they will likely be an option in the future. [7] Recent reports note that, 5 people appear to be in remission from HIV after stem cell transplants that were given for other reasons. This is exciting news and offers hope for an eventual cure for HIV, but much more research must be done to determine whether it is practical and safe. [8]

What causes human immunodeficiency virus?

HIV is spread through the bodily fluids of people infected with the virus. Most commonly, this spread occurs through unprotected sexual contact. It can also be spread via contaminated blood, typically through sharing of needles. HIV can also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. [1]

Examine Database: Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
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Update History
  1. ^HIV(MedlinePlus)
  2. ^AIDS and opportunistic infections(May 2021)
  3. ^Fawzi WW, Msamanga GI, Spiegelman D, Wei R, Kapiga S, Villamor E, Mwakagile D, Mugusi F, Hertzmark E, Essex M, Hunter DJA randomized trial of multivitamin supplements and HIV disease progression and mortality.N Engl J Med.(2004-Jul-01)
  4. ^Carpenter CL, Kapur K, Ramakrishna P, Pamujula S, Yadav K, Giovanni JE, Julian O, Ekstrand ML, Sinha S, Nyamathi AMLean Mass Improvement from Nutrition Education and Protein Supplementation among Rural Indian Women Living with HIV/AIDS: Results from Cluster Randomized Factorial Trial at 18-Month Follow-Up.Nutrients.(2021-Dec-30)
  5. ^Sachdeva M, Sra HK, Agarwal A, Chauhan A, Pradhan P, Singh M, Singh MEffect of Probiotics on the Frequency of CD4+ T-Cells in HIV-Infected Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.J Trop Pediatr.(2022-Feb-03)
  6. ^Nyamathi A, Sinha S, Ganguly KK, Ramakrishna P, Suresh P, Carpenter CLImpact of protein supplementation and care and support on body composition and CD4 count among HIV-infected women living in rural India: results from a randomized pilot clinical trial.AIDS Behav.(2013-Jul)
  7. ^Thoueille P, Choong E, Cavassini M, Buclin T, Decosterd LALong-acting antiretrovirals: a new era for the management and prevention of HIV infection.J Antimicrob Chemother.(2022-Feb-02)
  8. ^Hsu J, Van Besien K, Glesby MJ, Pahwa S, Coletti A, Warshaw MG, Petz L, Moore TB, Chen YH, Pallikkuth S, Dhummakupt A, Cortado R, Golner A, Bone F, Baldo M, Riches M, Mellors JW, Tobin NH, Browning R, Persaud D, Bryson Y,HIV-1 remission and possible cure in a woman after haplo-cord blood transplant.Cell.(2023-Mar-16)
Examine Database References
  1. HIV Viral Load - J J Feiner, M A McNurlan, R E Ferris, D C Mynarcik, M C GelatoChromium picolinate for insulin resistance in subjects with HIV disease: a pilot studyDiabetes Obes Metab.(2008 Feb)
  2. Glycemic Control - Aghdassi E, Arendt BM, Salit IE, Mohammed SS, Jalali P, Bondar H, Allard JPIn patients with HIV-infection, chromium supplementation improves insulin resistance and other metabolic abnormalities: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trialCurr HIV Res.(2010 Mar)
  3. HIV Viral Load - Fredriksen J, Ueland T, Dyrøy E, Halvorsen B, Melby K, Melbye L, Skalhegg BS, Bohov P, Skorve J, Berge RK, Aukrust P, Frøland SSLipid-lowering and anti-inflammatory effects of tetradecylthioacetic acid in HIV-infected patients on highly active antiretroviral therapyEur J Clin Invest.(2004 Oct)
  4. HIV Viral Load - Leite RD, Lima NL, Leite CA, Farhat CK, Guerrant RL, Lima AAImprovement of intestinal permeability with alanyl-glutamine in HIV patients: a randomized, double blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trialArq Gastroenterol.(2013 Jan-Mar)
  5. HIV Viral Load - Byakwaga H, Kelly M, Purcell DF, French MA, Amin J, Lewin SR, Haskelberg H, Kelleher AD, Garsia R, Boyd MA, Cooper DA, Emery S, CORAL Study GroupIntensification of antiretroviral therapy with raltegravir or addition of hyperimmune bovine colostrum in HIV-infected patients with suboptimal CD4+ T-cell response: a randomized controlled trialJ Infect Dis.(2011 Nov 15)
  6. CD4 Lymphocytes - Florén CH, Chinenye S, Elfstrand L, Hagman C, Ihse IColoPlus, a new product based on bovine colostrum, alleviates HIV-associated diarrhoeaScand J Gastroenterol.(2006 Jun)
  7. CD4 Lymphocytes - Kaducu FO, Okia SA, Upenytho G, Elfstrand L, Florén CHEffect of bovine colostrum-based food supplement in the treatment of HIV-associated diarrhea in Northern Uganda: a randomized controlled trialIndian J Gastroenterol.(2011 Dec)
  8. Diarrhea Symptoms - P D Greenberg, J P CelloTreatment of severe diarrhea caused by Cryptosporidium parvum with oral bovine immunoglobulin concentrate in patients with AIDSJ Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol.(1996 Dec 1)
  9. Diarrhea Symptoms - Rump JA, Arndt R, Arnold A, Bendick C, Dichtelmüller H, Franke M, Helm EB, Jäger H, Kampmann B, Kolb PTreatment of diarrhoea in human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients with immunoglobulins from bovine colostrumClin Investig.(1992 Jul)
  10. CD4 Lymphocytes - Calabrese C, Berman SH, Babish JG, Ma X, Shinto L, Dorr M, Wells K, Wenner CA, Standish LJA phase I trial of andrographolide in HIV positive patients and normal volunteersPhytother Res.(2000 Aug)
  11. CD4 Lymphocytes - Kalikar MV, Thawani VR, Varadpande UK, Sontakke SD, Singh RP, Khiyani RKImmunomodulatory effect of Tinospora cordifolia extract in human immuno-deficiency virus positive patientsIndian J Pharmacol.(2008 Jun)
  12. CD4 Lymphocytes - Barry M Bredt, Dana Higuera-Alhino, Starley B Shade, Samuel J Hebert, Joseph M McCune, Donald I AbramsShort-term effects of cannabinoids on immune phenotype and function in HIV-1-infected patientsJ Clin Pharmacol.(2002 Nov)
  13. Opioid Use - Ronald J Ellis, Will Toperoff, Florin Vaida, Geoffrey van den Brande, James Gonzales, Ben Gouaux, Heather Bentley, J Hampton AtkinsonSmoked medicinal cannabis for neuropathic pain in HIV: a randomized, crossover clinical trialNeuropsychopharmacology.(2009 Feb)
  14. Leptin - Riggs PK, Vaida F, Rossi SS, Sorkin LS, Gouaux B, Grant I, Ellis RJA pilot study of the effects of cannabis on appetite hormones in HIV-infected adult menBrain Res.(2012 Jan 11)
  15. Glycemic Control - Marcel AK, Ekali LG, Eugene S, Arnold OE, Sandrine ED, von der Weid D, Gbaguidi E, Ngogang J, Mbanya JCThe effect of Spirulina platensis versus soybean on insulin resistance in HIV-infected patients: a randomized pilot studyNutrients.(2011 Jul)
  16. Total Antioxidant Capacity (TAC) - Fatemeh Naeini, Meysam Zarezadeh, Sara Mohiti, Helda Tutunchi, Mehrangiz Ebrahimi Mamaghani, Alireza OstadrahimiSpirulina supplementation as an adjuvant therapy in enhancement of antioxidant capacity: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trialsInt J Clin Pract.(2021 Jul 8)
  17. Weight - Wolf BW, Wheeler KB, Ataya DG, Garleb KASafety and tolerance of Lactobacillus reuteri supplementation to a population infected with the human immunodeficiency virusFood Chem Toxicol.(1998 Dec)
  18. Triglycerides - Thusgaard M, Christensen JH, Mørn B, Andersen TS, Vige R, Arildsen H, Schmidt EB, Nielsen HEffect of fish oil (n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids) on plasma lipids, lipoproteins and inflammatory markers in HIV-infected patients treated with antiretroviral therapy: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studyScand J Infect Dis.(2009)
  19. Triglycerides - Oliveira JM, Rondó PHOmega-3 fatty acids and hypertriglyceridemia in HIV-infected subjects on antiretroviral therapy: systematic review and meta-analysisHIV Clin Trials.(2011 Sep-Oct)
  20. Total cholesterol - Swanson B, Keithley JK, Sha BE, Fogg L, Nerad J, Novak RM, Adeyemi O, Spear GTPolicosanol for managing human immunodeficiency virus-related dyslipidemia in a medically underserved population: a randomized, controlled clinical trialAltern Ther Health Med.(2011 Mar-Apr)
  21. Oxidative Stress Biomarkers - Jariwalla RJ, Lalezari J, Cenko D, Mansour SE, Kumar A, Gangapurkar B, Nakamura DRestoration of blood total glutathione status and lymphocyte function following alpha-lipoic acid supplementation in patients with HIV infectionJ Altern Complement Med.(2008 Mar)
  22. Lean Mass - Abrams DI, Shade SB, Couey P, McCune JM, Lo J, Bacchetti P, Chang B, Epling L, Liegler T, Grant RMDehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) effects on HIV replication and host immunity: a randomized placebo-controlled studyAIDS Res Hum Retroviruses.(2007 Jan)