People living with HIV/AIDS
As a person living with HIV/AIDS, you have many opportunities for a healthy and full life. You may also have some health challenges. One of those challenges is avoiding infections.
Many fungal infections are called opportunistic infections, which means that they usually affect people with weak immune systems. Because HIV weakens the immune system, you have a greater chance of getting some types of fungal infections, like cryptococcosis, coccidioidomycosis, histoplasmosis, and pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP).
What you need to know about fungal infections
Your CD4 count is important. You’re at greatest risk for fungal infection when your CD4 count is less than 200. Keeping your CD4 count above 200 may help you avoid serious illness.
Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) is important. Starting ART helps slow the progress of HIV and can reduce your chances of getting a fungal infection.
Fungal infections can range from mild to life-threatening. Some fungal infections are mild skin rashes, but others can be deadly, like fungal meningitis. Because of this, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to try to avoid serious infection.
Fungal infections can look like bacterial or viral infections. If you’re taking medicine to fight an infection and you aren’t getting better, ask your doctor about testing you for a fungal infection.
Where you live (geography) matters. Some disease-causing fungi are more common in certain parts of the world. If you have HIV/AIDS and live in or visit these areas, you’re more likely to get these infections than the general population.1 For more information on travel related illnesses, please see the CDC Traveler’s Health site.
Your activities matter. Disease-causing fungi can be found in air, dust, and soil, especially soil that contains bird or bat droppings. Doing activities that disturb the soil, like gardening, cleaning chicken coops, construction, demolition, and visiting caves can cause you to inhale more fungi and increases your chance of infection.2
Some fungal infections can interfere with taking your medications. Thrush, an infection in the mouth and throat, is sometimes seen among people living with HIV/AIDS. This infection is not usually life-threatening, but can be painful, make it difficult to eat, or interfere with taking your medications.3 Your nutrition is an important part of staying healthy, so it’s important to seek care for this infection.
Preventing fungal infections in people living with HIV/AIDS
Fungi are difficult to avoid because they are a natural part of the environment. Fungi live outdoors in soil, on plants, trees, and other vegetation. They are also on many indoor surfaces and on your skin. However, there may be some ways for you to lower your chances of getting a serious fungal infection.
Learn about fungal infections. There are different types of fungal infections. Learning about them can help you and your healthcare provider recognize the symptoms early, which may prevent serious illness.
Find out about your risk. The danger of getting a fungal infection can change depending on your location and your CD4 count. Learning what things can put you at risk may prevent serious illness.
Get additional medical care if necessary. Fungal infections often resemble other illnesses. Visiting your healthcare provider may help with faster diagnosis and may prevent serious illness.
Antifungal medication. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to prevent fungal infections. For example, they may recommend medication (TMP-SMX, also called Bactrim, Septra, or Cotrim) to prevent a type of fungal pneumonia called Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia (PCP).3
Protect yourself from the environment. There may be some ways to lower your chances of getting a serious fungal infection by trying to avoid disease-causing fungi in the environment.2 It’s important to note that although these actions are recommended, they have not been proven to prevent fungal infections.
- Try to avoid areas with a lot of dust like construction or excavation sites.
- Stay inside during dust storms.
- Stay away from areas with bird and bat droppings. This includes places like chicken coops and caves.
- Wear gloves when handling materials such as soil, moss, or manure.
- Wear shoes, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt when doing outdoor activities such as gardening, yard work, or visiting wooded areas.