When AIDS sets in


When the immune system is compromised (for example, by HIV/Aids), Cytomegalovirus is activated and can cause infections.


Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus, or VZV).

Kaposi's sarcoma (KS)

Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is a type of malignant tumour of the blood vessels that develops most commonly on the skin and mucous membranes, but may also affect internal organs.

When Aids sets in

It is not possible to say exactly what symptoms and diseases will be associated with HIV-infection in a specific person. Because of the unique way in which HIV attacks and disarms the immune system, all kinds of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses and cancers are able to invade the body. That is the reason why we talk about Aids as a syndrome - a collection of many illnesses and infections.

Mycobacterium avium complex

Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) infection is caused by a group of environmental bacteria called Mycobacterium avium complex. These bacteria live harmlessly in the bodies of people with healthy immune systems. In persons with advanced HIV, MAC can spread throughout the body and damage tissue.


Toxoplasmosis is caused by by contaminated food or cat faeces.


One of the opportunistic diseases that can strike down people with HIV/Aids is Cryptosporidiosis (“crypto”) is caused by a germ called Cryptosporidium parvum.

Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML)

Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, or PML, is a disease that attacks the brain. It is caused by a virus called JC virus (JCV), which is common among the general population and normally harmless. In people with advanced HIV/Aids, JCV attacks the myelin sheaths around the nerve and brain cells, and causes lesions in the white matter of the brain.

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Ask the Expert

HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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