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AIDS-related MAC: how to help yourself.

What Is HIV Disease?

HIV means Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which is a germ that can enter the body and cause AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). HIV attacks and kills certain cells of the body, especially those that protect us from disease. When too many of these cells have been destroyed, the body becomes weak and the person gets sick. A person with HIV may get very serious diseases that healthy people do not get, such as a rare kind of pneumonia (a disease of the lungs) or some types of cancers. When a person with HIV has one of these diseases, we say the person has AIDS.

Even if they do not look or feel sick, people with HIV can pass the virus to other people by having sex and by sharing needles for injecting drugs. Pregnant women can also pass HIV to their babies before they are born.

What Is MAC?

Many people with HIV get sick with a disease called MAC. This booklet explains what MAC is. It also talks about medicines to help prevent and treat MAC disease--and how you can help yourself stay healthy.

MAC is short for Mycobacterium avium complex, the germs that cause MAC disease. People get MAC disease when their immune systems are weakened.

MAC germs are all around us--in the air, water, and soil. People with healthy immune systems don't get sick from MAC germs. People with HIV have weakened immune systems and can become very ill from this infection. Doctors can test for MAC germs in samples of your blood, urine, sputum (spit), or affected body tissues.

MAC can cause many different problems, but it is most serious when it spreads to organs like the bone marrow, liver, and spleen. These organs keep our blood healthy and in good supply. When MAC spreads through the body, it can cause the symptoms that are listed in the box below:

Symptoms of MAC

* fever

* night sweats

* weight loss

* tiredness

* stomach pain

* diarrhea

Medicines Can Help

Medicines can be used to:

* Keep your immune system strong. You are less likely to get MAC when your immune system is strong. To keep you healthy, your doctor or clinic nurse may ask you to start taking medicine as soon as you find out that you have HIV.

* Prevent MAC disease. Even if you feel well, your doctor may want you to take medicine to help delay or prevent MAC disease. If you begin taking medicine to prevent MAC disease, you may need to keep taking it to stay healthy.

* Treat MAC disease. Several medicines are used to treat MAC disease. If you have MAC disease,you may need more than one kind of medicine. Combining two or more kind of medicine makes them work better. The same drugs used to treat TB (tuberculosis) are often used to treat MAC disease.

How To Help Yourself

1. Go to a clinic or doctor for regular checkups. That way, your doctor may spot problems early and help you right away.

2. Keep your immune system strong. You can help keep your immune system strong by eating healthy foods, getting enough rest, exercising and not using alcohol cigarettes, and drugs.

3. Follow your care plan. If you get MAC disease, you will be treated with special medicines. You may need to take medicine even if you feel well. If you stop taking your medicine before you should, MAC can come back, and the drugs may not work as well as the first time. It is important to take your medicine as your doctor prescribes (at the right times and in the right amounts). If you have any questions, ask the clinic staff or your doctor. Write down your doctor's instructions for taking the medicine in the spaces below:

Name of medicine: --

Time of day to take: --

How much to take: --

How long to take taking: --

Name of medicine: --

Time of day to take: --

How much to take: --

How long to keep taking: --

Name of medicine: --

Time of day to take: --

How much to take: --

How long to keep taking: --

4. Tell your doctor or clinic nurse about any new symptoms or problems. This will help the doctor or nurse decide which tests you need and which medicines are best for you. Most people taking medicine for MAC disease begin to feel better within 4-6 weeks.

Your medicines may also cause,side effects. Your doctor may have to change the amount or type of medicine to reduce your side effects.


* Take your medicines as your doctor prescribes.

* Have regular checkups.

* Report any new symptoms or side effects from your medicines.

Research: Hope for the Future

Many drugs can be used to treat MAC disease, but scientists are still looking for better ways to prevent and treat this disease. Today, many drugs are being tested in research studies. You may be able to help test one of these drugs. If you take part in research, you may help yourself--and others with HIV.

To Find Out More About MAC

Here are some numbers to call to learn more about MAC disease and how to help yourself:

* 1-800-342-AIDS (1-800-342-2437) You can get more information about MAC disease. You can also find out about treatment centers and other help.

* 1-800-TRIALS-A (1-800-874-2572) You can find out about testing new drugs. There may be a center near you where you can volunteer for studies that are taking place.

* 1-800-AIDS-NIH (1-800-243-7644) Call Monday through Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (eastern time) to find out about studies being done at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical center.
COPYRIGHT 1994 National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Pamphlet by: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Article Type:Pamphlet
Date:Jan 1, 1994
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