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HIV and AIDS

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of Someone With AIDS?

12/12/2000

Question:

Can you tell me what to expect in the appearance of a person who may have AIDS? Are they more apt to be cold and shivering? If so, can it be determined what stage they are in, how long they have had this? Also, is a person with AIDS more apt to have breathing problems and need an inhaler? If this person does need the inhaler and had been a smoker for a long time, could it be more from that, than the possibility of AIDS?

Answer:

Reader, you have asked an awful lot of questions in one. I will try to answer each of them. As to what to expect in the appearance of a person who has AIDS or is HIV-infected, that is fairly easy. Persons infected with HIV or who have AIDS can look healthy or normal; if he/she has had significant problems from the HIV-infection, he/she may also look sickly. However, bottom-line is that appearance is not a good way to predict who has HIV-infection or AIDS. The appearance of cold or shivering may appear in anyone who has an infection ranging from a simple cold to a severe pneumonia or meningitis (whether he/she has AIDS or not); therefore, this is not a way to predict who has HIV-infection or AIDS either. Since it cannot predict who has HIV-infection or AIDS, it obviously cannot help predict what stage of the disease is present or how long it has been present; this requires more specific medical information.

The need for inhalers is not an indication of HIV-infection or AIDS. This is more indicative of persons with bronchiole or lung problems such as asthma or emphysema. As you pointed out, persons with a long history of smoking are prone to having lung problems such as these. A person needing an inhaler may have one of these diseases; inhalers should be used under the care of a physician because of the possible underlying lung or bronchiole problems.

Anyone who suspects that he or she may be HIV-infected or have AIDS, should contact a physician to further verify this diagnosis. If you are reluctant to do this in person, there are health department-sponsored, anonymous testing centers located in many cities and county health departments. Also, if you know someone who you suspect may be HIV-infected or have AIDS, you should encourage him/her to consider testing also.

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Response by:

Stephen   Kralovic, MD Stephen Kralovic, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati