All the info you need on AIDS


World AIDS Day

1 December

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is a syndrome or combination of health conditions caused by the HIV virus which destroys our CD4 cells (also known as T cells or helper cells).

These cells drive our immune system, protecting us from disease and infection, and helping us to stay healthy.


Don’t ignore what feels like the flu

Early HIV symptoms can be mistaken for other common conditions like flu, but once you enter the chronic (long-term) phase, there may be no obvious symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to get tested regularly and to get treated early. Early treatment will also lower your risk of giving the virus to others.

AIDS usually only develops if a person doesn’t get diagnosed and treated. It’s Stage 3 
(final stage) of the virus, and at this stage, the immune system is so badly damaged that 
the body battles to fight off infections like TB and pneumonia.

The point is, while HIV/AIDS can’t be cured, if you get early treatment through anti-retroviral (ARV) meds and diet & lifestyle changes, you can lead
a long and full life like anyone else.


What are the first symptoms of HIV?

  • Tiredness

  • Headache

  • Weight loss

  • Fevers and night sweats

  • Swollen lymph nodes (lymph nodes are found in the neck, groin & armpits and help to fight off bacteria and viruses)

  • Itchy skin rash, mainly on the face chest,
feet & hands

  • Mouth ulcers


What are the symptoms of AIDS?

  • Frequent fever

  • Swollen lymph glands in the armpits,
neck & groin

  • Long-term tiredness

  • Night sweats

  • Dark patches under the skin or inside the mouth, nose & eyelids

  • Sores, spots & lesions of the mouth, tongue, genitals & anus

  • Long-term diarrhoea

  • Quick weight loss

  • Concentration problems, memory loss
& confusion

  • Anxiety & depression

  • Chronic infections like TB & pneumonia

What are ARVs?

Antiretroviral meds or ARVs block stages of the HIV virus life cycle. They stop the virus from making more & more cells in your body, help to reduce your viral load, and boost your CD4 count (CD4 cells protect your body from disease and infection). In SA, ARVs come in the form of a three-in-one tablet.

How does gut health help with HIV?

  • Probiotics are tiny organisms that live in your gut and keep it healthy

  • Probiotics can boost immunity in HIV 
patients and slow down damage to the immune system

  • Probiotics can be found in foods like plain yoghurt, fermented foods (kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut cabbage & pickles) & apple cider vinegar, and in supplements

  • To get your gut into great shape, cut out fast food, sugar, processed cheese and meats, deep-fried foods & store-bought baked foods like crackers

  • Eat a mainly plant-based diet with wholegrain foods (brown rice, bread and pasta), raw veggies, good fats (avo), lean white meat, fatty fish & boiled or poached eggs


Get started by getting tested

There’s so much you can do to stop AIDS from developing, but it all starts with getting tested. The Unu app can help with that!