People with HIV are far more likely to develop chronic yeast infections than healthy people. When people with HIV contract yeast infections, they tend to be serious and difficult to treat. In fact, chronic yeast infections have sometimes proven fatal to transplant patients, cancer patients and individuals with HIV. Yeast is also more common in people with chronic diseases, like diabetes.
About half of the population carries Candida yeast as a normal part of their skin and intestinal flora. People who don’t have HIV often have no problems because normal skin and stomach organisms keep the Candida yeast in balance. When a health event occurs that upsets this balance (like HIV), overgrowth of yeast organisms may occur. The benign yeast then turns into serious problem.
After a course of antibiotics (often used to treat the frequent onset of infections in persons with HIV) a yeast infection is more likely. That is because the antibiotics are designed to kill both benign and pathogenic bacteria, thus creating the perfect environment for a yeast infection.
In people with HIV, Candida infections can affect various internal organs and cause pain or dysfunction of the organ. Approximately 85% of people with HIV contract a yeast infection called esophagitis in their upper gastrointestinal systems. This yeast infection is similar to thrush but extends down the mouth and esophagus to the stomach. Candida esophagitis can cause painful ulcers throughout the GI system, making it difficult to swallow anything, even lukewarm liquids. If the yeast infection spreads into the intestines, food may be poorly absorbed by people with HIV. People with this condition are in danger of becoming dehydrated.
If Candida yeast gets into the bloodstream, a person with HIV may become sick without fever. If the infection spreads to the brain, acute changes in mental function or behavior may occur.
If you have problems with your immune system due to HIV or other chronic illnesses, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to minimize the risks of a painful, possible fatal, yeast infection in the esophagus.
Having a yeast infection can increase a woman’s susceptibility to HIV. This is because vaginal irritation may allow easier passage of HIV into the bloodstream. It is now recognized that women who have recurring yeast infections that translate into nearly-constant yeast overgrowth may be in the early stages of HIV. The immune system suppression from HIV can cause an imbalance in the vagina’s chemistry, resulting in persistent yeast overgrowth. It is important to consult your doctor if you have chronic yeast infections.
HIV: The virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
Candida albicans: The fungus that causes most yeast infections