Causes of Cough in AIDS and HIV

Since the HIV virus damages the immune system of the people who get infected with it, these patients need to be aware of any potential signs of illness. In patients with HIV and AIDS, a cough can be a sign of a variety of pulmonary infections or irritations. In these patients, coughs that are associated with fever, green mucus or shortness of breath need to be evaluated by a physician immediately, according to the Owen Clinic Online website. If a cough lasts for 10 days or more, the physician should be contacted as well.

Medical technician tests blood for the presence of the HIV and AIDS virus. Credit: Alen-D/iStock/Getty Images

Pneumocystis Pneumonia

As the most common opportunistic infection in people with HIV, pneumocystis pneumonia can be fatal but with current therapies, the condition can be prevented. Symptoms of this pneumonia include a dry cough, shortness of breath and fever, according to the Aurora Health Care website. The pneumocystis jiroveci fungus can be present in healthy people but in people with compromised immune systems like patients with HIV and AIDS, this fungus can cause a serious infection. This infection can be treated with oral antibiotics like trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole but for more serious infections, IV medications may be required.

Tuberculosis Infection

A symptom of tuberculosis infection in the lungs of a person with HIV or AIDS is a bad cough that lasts for more than two weeks, according to A person who has had a previous tuberculosis infection and becomes infected with the HIV virus has a vastly increased risk of developing another active tuberculosis infection. Tuberculosis is more difficult to diagnose in people with HIV and progresses faster as well. Pulmonary tuberculosis can be treated with combinations of antibiotics which vary according to the country and the strain of the mycobacterium organism.

Mycobacterium Avium Complex Infections

The organisms in the Mycobacterium avium complex can cause a lung infection in patients with HIV and AIDS, according to the Patient UK website. The species of organisms--Mycobacterium avium and Mycobacterium intracellulare-- often infect people who have compromised immune systems. Symptoms of this type of infection include cough, shortness of breath and coughing up blood. This infection is treated by antibiotics for many months in these patients.

Bacterial Infections

Another cause of cough in patients with HIV and AIDS is sinus infections, according to the Owen Clinic Online website. The mucus discharge from the infected sinuses drips down into the lungs which causes irritation and cough. This cough is important because the body needs to remove the mucus as it accumulates in the respiratory system.

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