Summary of Study Session 21
In Study Session 21, you have learned that:
- An opportunistic infection is caused by pathogens that usually do not cause disease in a healthy person, i.e. one with a healthy immune system.
- The WHO HIV clinical staging system is a staging system developed for patients with HIV to help determine the degree of immune deficiency.
- Identifying opportunistic infections and diseases will help you to categorise PLHIV in one of the four stages of the WHO HIV clinical staging. Stages 1 and 2 correspond to asymptomatic or mild disease, whereas stages 3 and 4 imply serious clinical health problems. Stage 4 is AIDS.
- Common opportunistic infections in PLHIV may be mild (e.g. persistent generalised lymphadenopathy (PGL) at Stage 1), progressing to skin rashes and more serious infections of the mouth, throat and oesophagus at stages 2–4, tuberculosis at stages 3 or 4, and HIV wasting syndrome at stage 4.
- The most commonly used chemoprophylaxis to prevent common opportunistic infections in HIV/AIDS is to administer cotrimoxazole, a wide-spectrum antibiotic that targets several opportunistic infections.
- All PLHIV at WHO clinical stages 2, 3, 4, or with a CD4 count less than 350 cells/mm³, should start cotrimoxazole prophylaxis. Monitoring adherence to the prescribed drug regimen is an important part of the Health Extension Practitioner’s role.