Hospitalization and Palliative Care

Hospitalization and HIV

There are a number of HIV-related reasons you might have to be admitted to the hospital. Acute respiratory failure is a major one—it accounts for approximately 25-50% of intensive care unit (ICU) admissions for people with HIV disease. Respiratory failure is usually a product of infection, with Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (PCP) and bacterial pneumonia being the most common culprits. Other common indications for ICU admission include central nervous system infections (like cryptococcal meningitis or encephalitis) and sepsis.

For more information about HIV-related hospitalization and critical care, see the Department of Veteran Affairs’ HIV/AIDS Topics: Other Primary Care Issues—Critical Care of Patients with HIV.

Surgery and HIV

There is good news if you’re HIV-positive and need or want to have surgery. Studies have found that there isn’t much difference in the rate of complications between HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients. So simply having HIV should not keep you from having either elective or emergency surgery.

If you are scheduling a surgical procedure, you need to make sure your healthcare provider has the most up-to-date information on your medical history—including your CD4 count, viral load, and a list of your current medications. You should talk to your provider in detail about potential complications, recovery time, and any special instructions or tests you may need before your surgery.

Palliative Care

Palliative care is medical care that focuses on relieving pain and suffering for people with advanced illness and their families. Palliative care does not aim to cure you of an illness, but to improve your quality of life by managing symptoms and complications. You can have palliative care at any point in your illness, and at the same time as treatment that is meant to cure you.

If you are receiving end-of-life care, palliative care may cover psychosocial and spiritual support, as well as pain and symptom management. Your palliative caregivers may talk with you about your goals and values around end-of-life care, and they may refer you to hospice care when appropriate.

For more information on palliative care, see the Center to Advance Palliative Care’s Exit Disclaimer.

Related Topics on

Last revised: 06/01/2012