HIV Wasting Syndrome

HIV Wasting Syndrome

It is extremely important to identify the onset of HIV before it goes beyond medical intervention. This Buzzle article discusses everything you need to know about the HIV wasting syndrome and how to seek appropriate treatment in time.
The human immunodeficiency virus is a lethal killer that hits the most vital physiological machinery of your body - your immune system. Once the immune system gets destroyed, there is very little that the body can do to save itself from reckless parasitic exploitation and the resultant destruction. The invasion of the body by HIV, and the resulting decline in the immune system's ability to combat infections and fight diseases, is characterized by the occurrence and flourishing of opportunistic infections, which do not otherwise thrive in healthy hosts. HIV wasting syndrome is one such indication of infection and, as the name suggests, the victim gradually wastes away till there is not much left of him! Let us take a closer look at this condition.

The Definition

HIV wasting-away syndrome can be identified, and hence defined as a combination of the following indications:-
  • Persistent fever for over thirty days at a stretch
  • Involuntary loss of more than 10% of the normal individual body weight
  • Chronic diarrhea, caused due to apparently unknown reasons, persisting for almost or more than thirty days
  • Constant fatigue for no apparent reason
All these symptoms may also be accompanied by degeneration of muscle fibers, which may result in muscle wasting. To put it all together, the wasting syndrome refers to an apparently unexplained wasting away of the body, which is symptomized by weakness, weight loss, and fatigue, which are caused by unexplained deficiencies and malnutrition, despite healthy levels of food and nutrition intake.


As discussed under the definition above, the typical symptoms, along with some of the early symptoms of HIV infection, include persistent fever, fatigue, and diarrhea that remain constant for over a month. All this is accompanied by chronic weight loss for no apparent reason and a resultant weakness and nutritional deficiency. Loss of appetite and constant feelings of nausea are also common symptoms of this syndrome. These symptoms of this immune system disease syndrome are very similar to the symptoms suffered by victims of fictional vampires - except, of course, the diarrhea and maybe the fever part. In fact, there is much similarity between those fictional bloodsuckers and this biological parasite, as they both drain the host of all life force and vitality, leading him to a gradual death.


Besides the treatment that is imparted for arresting the HIV infection, treating of the symptoms of wasting is the best and only way to put a check on the physical degeneration brought about by the viral infection. For this reason, generic symptomatic treatment of diarrhea and fever will help alleviate these indications, whereas, administering anti-nausea drugs would inhibit the sick feeling. Appetite stimulants and multivitamin supplements may be given to revive appetite and enhance the body's ability to absorb dietary nutrients. This way, while the anti-HIV treatment deals with the root cause of the malady, the symptomatic treatment methods repair the body's defenses, so that, the body responds positively to the anti-viral treatment. Otherwise, a weakened biological system, due to its inability to respond to medications and treatment, gets even more deeply entangled in the malevolent snare of this lethal virus.

As we can see, by attacking the immune system, the human immunodeficiency virus throws the host's physiological and metabolic machinery into a vicious cycle of nutritional deficiency, followed by resulting physical degeneration, which is further followed by resulting inability (of the body) to absorb nutrition. This vicious cycle manifests as HIV wasting syndrome, which is the stage when the body, burdened by a weakened immune system, is no longer capable of absorbing vitality and nutrition from dietary sources, as it could, under normal circumstances. From here on, in the absence of diagnosis and timely symptomatic treatment, the body enters a downward spiral of degeneration leading to complete breakdown. Therefore, taking certain preventive measures, is the best way to keep this immuno-degenerative syndrome at an arm's distance.