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Candida & How It Can Be A Problem In HIV/AIDS

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Candidiasis, or thrush as it’s more usually known, is a very common opportunistic infection in people with AIDS. While it is often one of the least serious AIDS-related problems, it can still be an great inconvenience and very uncomfortable. In some cases, the presence of candidiasis will become a serious health threat.

Candida is a common fungus that is normally controlled by a strong immune system. However, if the immune system is weakened, candida can grow and multiply on the linings of the body passages and elsewhere in the body causing yeast infection or thrush symptoms. This means that when someone is infected with the HIV virus, and the immune system is weakened, the helpful bacteria in the body which would normally keep thrush under control are in short supply. These are the conditions in which thrush loves to thrive.

Some background on Candida

You don't catch candida as it is already present in us and on us, and it has to compete with other micro-organisms including bacteria. Such bacterial are harmless but good at keeping yeast numbers down. Take antibiotics to fight infection and they will kill off the good bacteria along with the bad so that candida takes the opportunity to start multiplying and, if it multiplies sufficiently, can cause pain and inflammation and affect the external surface of the skin or that of the vagina, the penis or even the mouth. In rarer cases, the candida can infect the blood stream, liver or spleen.

Candida can be a serious health threat to those with HIV and AIDS

They do not have a strong enough immune system to fight off the candida. HIV and AIDS is of course responsible for weakening and damaging the immune system, putting anyone with HIV or AIDS so much more at risk to candidiasis and yeast infections. Thrush in the mouth is extremely common in those people with HIV when their CD4 cell count is between 200 and 400. They will also be prone to candida on the gums, tongue, inner cheek and / or the upper throat which is known as oropharyngeal candidiasis where the candida will grow in white clumps (which can be scraped away) or appear as red patches. When candida affects any of these places, it can be painful to eat or drink.

A more serious candida yeast infection in HIV/AIDS patients is oesophageal candidiasis

This appears in the gullet, also making it very painful to eat, and is actually considered to be one of the symptoms of AIDS. While candida can appear in different parts of the body including the vagina in females and under the foreskin of the penis in males, when someone has an advanced HIV infection, candida can start occurring in different parts of the body at the same time including the lungs. Such an infection in the lungs is known as pulmonary candidiasis.

If you have AIDS

It is very likely that you may have another opportunist infection or be taking drugs to prevent one. So apart from antibiotics, steroids and even cancer drugs have been found to cause candidiasis especially if taken long term.

You can improve the situation and prevent an outbreak of candidiasis by ensuring that your CD4+ count stays high by boosting the immune system with a combination of anti HIV drugs and good lifestyle choices such as eating nutritious, healthy food:

  • Plenty of fresh vegetables (raw whenever possible and especially lots of raw garlic)
  • Protein foods (grass fed beef, free range chicken and eggs, fish)
  • Live yogurt cultures (both dairy and non-dairy)
  • FOS or fructo-oligosaccharides that are nondigestible dietary fibers that help to keep the stomach and bowels healthy
  • Wwhey, acidophilus, green algae (such as spirulina and chlorella), raw nuts, seeds and oils, and non-glutenous grains (like millet, rice, rice bran and oat bran)

In addition, getting regular exercise; avoiding stress; cutting down on alcohol intake and not smoking; ensuring regular and good quality sleep; and making sure your vitamin D levels are topped up by getting plenty of direct sunlight every day and taking a vitamin D3 supplement; all help to boost your immune system and prevent outbreaks. At the same time, avoid aged cheeses, chocolate, dried fruits, fresh fruits, fermented foods, mushrooms, vinegar, glutenous foods (wheat, rye, barley), all sugars, honeys and syrups and foods that contain yeast or mold.

In fact excellent nutrition and good lifestyle choices can go a long way to help the HIV/AIDS too.



Sellin J. Dietary dilemmas, delusions, and decisions. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2014;12:1601.

Kumamoto CA. Inflammation and gastrointestinal Candida colonization. Current Opinions in Microbiology. 2011;14:386.

Da Silva Dantas A, et al. Oxidative stress responses in the human fungal pathogen, candida albicans. Biomolecules. 2015;5:142.