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close this bookWhere Women Have No Doctor - A Health Guide for Women (Hesperian Foundation, 1997, 600 p.)
close this folderChapter 17: AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
close this folderCommon Medical Problems
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentFever
View the documentDiarrhea
View the documentSkin rashes and itching
View the documentNausea and vomiting
View the documentCough
View the documentProblems with the mouth and throat
View the documentWounds and sores
View the documentMental confusion (Dementia)
View the documentPain


Coughing is the body’s way of cleaning the breathing system and getting rid of mucus. Coughing is also a common sign of lung problems, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis. The lungs make more mucus when they are irritated or infected.

¨ DO NOT smote if you have a cough.

When a cough produces mucus, do not take medicine to stop the cough. Instead, do something to help loosen and bring up the mucus. This will make the cough heal faster

¨ Persons with AIDS often get pneumonia or TB. For more information, see below.


· Drink lots of water. Water is better than any medicine. It loosens the mucus so you can cough it up more easily.

· Cough several times during the day to clear the lungs. Be sure to cover your mouth.

· Keep active by walking, or by turning in bed and sitting up. This helps the mucus come out of the lungs.

· Soothe the throat by drinking tea with lemon and honey, or your own herbal remedy. Cough syrups that you buy are more expensive and no more helpful.

· If the cough is very bad and keeps you awake at night, take codeine, 30 mg, or codeine cough syrup.

Have someone hit you on the back of the chest (postural drainage). This can make it easier to cough up the mucus.


If you cough up yellow, green, or bloody mucus, the cough could be caused by pneumonia or TB, and you will need special medicines.


Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious infection caused by a germ that usually affects the lungs. The signs of AIDS and TB are similar, but they are different diseases. Most men, women, and children with TB do not have AIDS.

But someone with AIDS can get TB very easily because the person’s body is too weak to fight it. In I out of every 3 people who die from AIDS, it is TB that actually kills them.

A woman infected with HIV/AIDS is even more likely to get TB if her body is also weak from many pregnancies, poor nutrition and weak blood (anemia).

TB can be cured, even in persons with AIDS, so it is important to get treatment early. But people with AIDS should never take thiacetazone for TB. For complete information, see the chapter on “Tuberculosis”.

You can make this syrup for all kinds of cough, especially a dry cough. Take 1 teaspoon every 2 or 3 hours.




Pneumonia is caused by germs that infect the small breathing tubes deep in the lungs. Old people and very sick or weak people often get pneumonia.

Pneumonia can be very serious for people with AIDS. It should be treated with antibiotics right away. Sometimes pneumonia must be treated in the hospital with medicines in the vein (IV).



· Breaths are small and fast (more than 30 breaths a minute in an adult). Sometimes the nostrils open wide with each breath.

· You feel as if you cannot get enough air

· You have a sudden, often high, fever.

· You cough up mucus that is green, rust-colored, or bloody.

· You feel very ill.


· Take co-trimoxazole for 10 days or more (see the “Green Pages”).
· Drink plenty of liquids.
· Try to bring the fever down.
· If you are no better in 24 hours or if you are getting worse, get medical help right away.