HIV/AIDS

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Are there long-term effects?

Are there long-term effects?

Over time, HIV-positive people may experience symptoms from the infection and side effects from their anti-HIV drugs. Sometimes it is not clear whether the virus or the medications are causing the problems.

One long-term effect that some people experience is a change in the way their bodies handle fats and sugars. In some cases, these changes can raise the person's risk for heart disease and diabetes. Some people have experienced visible changes in body shape and appearance, including increased fat in the belly, neck, shoulders, breasts, or face--or loss of fat in the face, legs, or arms.

Experts aren't sure whether these changes in body fat are due to HIV itself, or to the anti-HIV drugs. There are no proven cures at this time, but there are steps people can take to reduce the effects. These include changes in diet, exercise, medication, even plastic surgery. For more information, go to Body Shape Changes in the Just Diagnosed section.

Over time, HIV infects and kills off immune cells. This leaves the body unable to fight certain kinds of serious, sometimes deadly, infections. These are called opportunistic infections because they take the opportunity to attack when a person's immune system is weak. Having HIV can also increase the risk of getting certain cancers. They may reach the advanced stage of infection called AIDS. For more information, go to Infections and Cancers in the Just Diagnosed section.