n Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine - The natural history of HIV infection : history

Volume 3, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1608-9693
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6751



HIV produces a relentless, progressive and ultimately fatal immunodeficiency syndrome in the vast majority of infected untreated patients.

The immunodeficiency that develops during HIV infection is a continuum, but the disease conveniently falls into several discrete clinical phases. Adding the results of simple blood tests to a clinical assessment allows the treating clinician to make a remarkably accurate assessment of the immediate risk of opportunistic disease, and initiate preventive and antiviral therapy accordingly.
Understanding the natural history of HIV-infected people allows a clinician to delay therapy when the risk of disease is low, and initiate prevention and antiviral therapy when that risk starts to rise.
Despite limited African prospective evidence, it seems that the progression of immunodeficiency is very similar here to developed countries. The range of opportunistic illnesses is significantly different, though, probably reflecting the difference in profiles of diseases in different regions.

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