Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic (meaning continuing or of long duration) illness caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infects the cells of our immune system and central nervous systems. When the HIV enters the bloodstream, it begins to attack certain white blood cells, primarily T-cells, and uses those cells to grow. When HIV uses one of these cells to grow, the cell can no longer do its job.

Each day, HIV creates billions of new HIV viruses in the body. The strong response of the body is to produce billions of antibodies to fight the infection. In fact, it is the presence of those antibodies that is tested to show the presence of HIV. That presence means a person is HIV positive. Eventually, in most people, the virus gets the upper hand, unless treatments stop it or slow it down.

When our system is attacked by that virus, the end result is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. AIDS is an infectious disease that cripples an important part of the body's immune system. A person is diagnosed with AIDS when her immune system is significantly destroyed. The disease process, to go from being HIV positive without any symptoms to having AIDS, usually takes about 10 years.

Because of this failure of the immune system, people with AIDS are vulnerable to unusual infections or cancers that do not pose a threat to anyone whose immune system is working normally. People who have AIDS are at high risk of falling victim to these life-threatening diseases called opportunistic infections. These infections are caused by microbes that usually do not cause illness in healthy people.

Home Medical Equipment for AIDS Patients

HIV and AIDS patients don't require the use of home medical equipment, but often the results of their inability to fight other diseases may require your assistance. Infections that only rarely occur in people with normal immune systems create a host of problems that might be alleviated or improved through the use of equipment. For example, weakness in the legs might necessitate the use of a cane or walker. Advanced deterioration of the body might also make functional ambulation impossible and a wheelchair might be appropriate. Incontinence is not an uncommon problem. An individual with AIDS likely will eventually need bathroom safety items, daily living aids, hospital beds and respiratory and oxygen equipment.

Disclaimer: This is a sampling of information. Please refer to the CMS website ( and consult your own experts for additional information.