Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which damages your immune system. By compromising your immune system, HIV restricts your body's ability to fight against organisms that cause disease. 

HIV is a sexually transmitted disease and can also be transferred through infected blood contact, from mother to child during pregnancy​, childbirth or breast feeding. 

To date, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS; however medications are available which can reduce the progression of this disease. 

The symptoms of HIV/AIDS vary and depend on the phase of the infection. 

First Stage or Acute Infection:​

  • The symptoms show within 2 to 6 weeks after the virus has entered the body

  • The symptoms mimic the symptoms of flu and occurs when the body tries to fight the HIV virus

These may include: 

  • Headache

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Diarrhoea

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Aching muscles

  • Sore throat

  • Red rash that doesn't itch, usually on the torso​

Second Stage and Progression to AIDS:

If during stage 1, HIV remains untreated and the symptoms go away completely, it will appear as if good health has been restored. However, internally the virus is slowly damaging the immune system. This is Stage 2 and is also known as Progression to AIDS. It can take about ten years before it develops into AIDS and by this time, the immune system has been damaged to the extent that it is unable to fight even minor infections that a person with a normal immune system would be able to overcome. The signs and symptoms of Stage 2 may include:​

  • Feeling very tired all the time

  • Unexpected weight loss

  • Night sweats

  • Fever that goes on for days

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Long lasting diarrhoea

  • Skin bumps

  • Rashes

Many people do not know that they have been infected with HIV and only discover this when they experience the above symptoms and get checked by a doctor.​​

If you think that you may have been infected with HIV or have experienced the symptoms of HIV it is best to get checked by a medical specialist. Make an appointment to consult with our doctors in the Internal Medicine Service Line​ at the Aga Khan University Hospital​
Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​

Your doctor will take a medical history, may ask you questions about your lifestyle and examine you for signs and symptoms of HIV/ AIDS.

To diagnose HIV infection, your doctor may ask for a blood test to detect HIV antibodies. However, it takes at least twelve weeks for the antibodies to appear which is an indication of HIV/AIDS. If you have been diagnosed with HIV, the following tests can help identify the stage of the disease:

  • CD4 count: even if you have no symptoms, HIV infection progresses to AIDS when your CD4 count dips below 200. CD4 cells are a type of white blood cell which are specifically destroyed by HIV, and a count of these help diagnose the stage of HIV in the body.

  • Viral load: this test measures the level of virus in your blood. 

  • Drug resistance: this blood test determines whether the strain of HIV you have will be resistant to certain anti-HIV medications.​

Disclaimer: Kindly consult your physician before getting the above-mentioned tests.

There is no cure for HIV/AIDS; however the doctor may prescribe a several medications to be used in combination. These medications will have to be taken every day, perhaps 2 to 3 times a day for the rest of your life. It is a difficult treatment regimen. You should be aware that HIV/AIDS medications have various side effects. These side effects can include:

  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea

  • Brittle bones 

  • Breakdown of muscle tissue (rhabdomyolysis)

  • Abnormal blood sugar levels

  • Heart problems 

  • Abnormal cholesterol ​

Alongside the medications, your doctor will test your viral load and CD4 count of your blood every four months. Your viral load should eventually reduce to negligible, so low that is does not show on the test results. This doesn’t mean your HIV is gone, it just means that your viral load is too low to be detected. However, you can still infect other people and precautions have to be taken.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.​

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments' costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.​​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.