Causes of Diarrhea in People with HIV and How to Overcome It

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It is common knowledge that a cure for HIV/AIDS has not yet been discovered. This disease paralyzes the immune system slowly. However, treatment, namely with antiretroviral therapy (ARV), is still needed to control viral infections, so that people with HIV can live healthy lives while reducing the risk of transmitting it to others.

The symptoms felt by people with HIV / AIDS (PLWHA) are different. One of the symptoms is diarrhea . Diarrhea is often experienced by PLWHA. Having liquid bowel movements more than three times a day can lead to dehydration.

Loss of body fluids can certainly be a health risk. Actually, what causes diarrhea in PLWHA? Let’s find out the cause together!

1. Gastrointestinal infection
The body’s defense system is disturbed, making it easy for bad microorganisms to breed. Bacteria, protozoa, and fungi quickly infect the digestive tract. This is one of the causes of diarrhea in PLWHA.

Reported by Healthline, one type of protozoa that often causes diarrhea is Cryptosporidium. Symptoms of diarrhea experienced by people living with HIV are worse than people without HIV.

2. Side effects of ARV terapi therapy
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS yet. However, ARV therapy can help suppress the progression of the HIV virus. Not cure, but improve the patient’s quality of life.

Some people living with HIV experience diarrhea due to side effects of ARV therapy. Reported by Very Well Health, ARV therapy affects the performance of cells in the intestine, so diarrhea can occur.

3. Development of the HIV virus
Viruses will thrive if they find the right host. Like other diseases, the HIV virus continues to grow causing symptoms in patients. One of them is diarrhea that PLWHA often complains about.

Opportunistic infections appear when the CD4 count is below 200. Without any defense, viruses, bacteria, fungi can easily enter. Quoting Medical News Today, one form of opportunistic infection in people with HIV/AIDS is diarrhea.

4. Non-infectious factors
You may have heard that illness can be caused by thoughts. Turns out, it wasn’t a joke. Diarrhea can be triggered by excessive stress and anxiety.

As quoted by Medical News Today, diarrhea can also be caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

How is it handled?

Treatment of diarrhea tailored to the cause. If diarrhea is caused by ARV therapy, the patient will be given a different type of drug. Stopping ARV therapy, is not the right solution. This requires consultation with a doctor.

If the diarrhea is caused by an opportunistic infection, the doctor will prescribe additional treatment. Other ways to deal with diarrhea include:

Meet fluid needs by drinking more water.
Avoid caffeinated drinks, containing milk, as they can make diarrhea worse.
Avoid spicy, high-fiber, and acidic foods.
Eat small amounts but often.
Observe the patient for signs of dehydration.

Also Read: HIV in Children and Adolescents: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

The causes of diarrhea in people with HIV are quite diverse. It cannot be underestimated, improper handling of diarrhea can be risky. If diarrhea continues, it is better to immediately visit the nearest health facility.