Diseases and Conditions
For more than 20 years, the AIDS Center at Montefiore and its outpatient Center for Positive Living/I.D. Clinic have been helping people to tackle a wide range of infections, from the common to the rare, from those that are potentially deadly to those that are mainly a nuisance, and all in between. With comprehensiveness unmatched anywhere else in the are our center offers a myriad of expert and compassionate services to diagnose and treat such diseases and conditions as:
HIV and AIDS
With expert care and supportive services, HIV infection and it's advanced form, AIDS, have become manageable chronic illnesses for the vast majority of people.
The HIV virus damages the body over time by attacking the immune system, rendering the body less able to fight off infections, cancers, and other illnesses. HIV is most commonly spread by sexual contact with an infected partner, but can also be spread through the sharing of needles, blood contamination, and from mother to infant.
All of those who have been sexually active or who have ever used drugs should be tested for HIV, with repeated testing important for those with ongoing risk. HIV is diagnosed by a number of different tests including rapid mouth swabs and blood tests. Those who are diagnosed with HIV earlier after being infected are much more likely to remain healthy and live a normal lifespan. As well, those who know their HIV status are much less likely to pass it on to others.
Initial symptoms of HIV are often mistaken for those of another viral infection and include:
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Mouth or skin ulcers
Persistent or severe symptoms may not surface for 10 years or more after HIV first enters the body in adults, or within two years in children born with an HIV infection, but the virus is continuously damaging the body throughout. Symptoms that may surface include:
- Lymph nodes that remain enlarged
- Lack of energy
- Weight loss
- Frequent fevers and sweats
- Persistent or frequent yeast infections (oral or vaginal)
- Persistent skin rashes or flaky skin
- Difficulty with memory and concentration
- Shingles outbreaks
- Recurrent infections such as pneumonia, sinusitis, and others
Medications for HIV have steadily improved, with better effectiveness, fewer side effects, and fewer doses each day. The vast majority of people with HIV infection are now offered HIV medications, both for their own health and the health of their close contacts. And the vast majority of people with HIV are doing well.
As a direct result of a weakened immune system, those suffering from HIV may develop various cancers or pre-cancerous conditions.
People with HIV are at higher risk for:
- Kaposi's sarcoma
- Abnormal cervical Pap smears and invasive cervical cancer in women
- Lung cancer – particularly in those who smoke
- Liver cancer in those with HIV and Hepatitis B or C
- Abnormal anal Pap smears and anal cancer
- Hodgkin's Disease
Hepatitis C is primarily transmitted through exposure to contaminated blood, through needle sharing, or, less frequently, by sexual contact. HIV is similarly transmitted so many with HIV are also infected with Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C, untreated, can over time lead to liver damage, cirrhosis of the liver, and liver cancer.
Medication therapies for Hepatitis C are improving each year and many can now be cured of their Hepatitis C by care teams such as those at the AIDS Center's Center for Positive Living/I.D. Clinic.
Nutrition is an important factor for those suffering with HIV. Those who eat poorly face a heightened risk of developing diabetes as they get older, especially if they become obese. In addition, it is possible that some HIV medication may cause, over time, blood sugar irregularities and raise the risk of a patient developing diabetes.
Patients with HIV are prone to a variety of skin disorders as a result of a weakened immune system. In fact, skin disorders may actually be the first symptom that someone has been infected with the disease. Among the skin disorders resulting from HIV are thrush, Kaposi's sarcoma, oral hairy leukoplakia, molluscum contagiosum, herpes, shingles, psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis.
Those diagnosed with HIV tend to suffer from a variety of feelings, including anger, depression, isolation, stress and anxiety, as they try to cope with fear of what happens next. Depression is common among people with HIV, and is often linked to substance abuse. In addition, HIV can affect the brain causing a range of neurologic conditions sometimes referred to as AIDS dementia, producing memory loss, poor concentration, changes in mood or behavior, and other symptoms.