Yeast naturally lives in some parts of your body and usually doesn’t cause problems. But when there is an overgrowth, you’ll experience the symptoms of a yeast infection. Yeast infections can occur in the vagina, mouth,  and throat (known as thrush).

Yeast infections are common for lots of women regardless of whether they have HIV. They are a sign of imbalance in your body. For women with HIV, yeast infections can become chronic: yeast infections weaken the immune system, and a weakened immune system can’t fight yeast. Vaginal yeast infections can also make you more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections. As your CD4+ cell counts decreases, the risk of repeated yeast infections increases.

Symptoms

In the mouth, you’ll see a thick coating on the tongue. In the throat, you’ll have an itchy, white coating.

Vaginal infection symptoms include the following:

  • itching or burning around the vagina
  • thick, white vaginal discharge
  • burning sensation while urinating
  • burning sensation while having sex

Causes

An overgrowth of yeast can be caused by the following:

  • a weakened immune system
  • antibiotics
  • birth control pills
  • steroids
  • pregnancy
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • poor hygiene

Treatment

If you’re not sure that you have a yeast infection, see a doctor for confirmation. Yeast infections can be treated with a pill, over-the-counter cream, or vaginal suppository. If these don’t work, or don’t work for long, follow up with a doctor. Thrush should always be seen by a doctor.

Prevention

There are some common approaches for reducing the risk of yeast infections:

  • Change what you eat: Cut down on sugars and starchy foods, eat natural yogurts containing probiotics (lactobacillus acidophilus) and take acidophilus capsules. Consult a dietician to determine the best diet for you.
  • Change your clothes: Wear cotton underwear that lets air in and doesn’t trap moisture. Wear pants loose enough so your crotch can “breathe.”
  • Change your soap: Soap can dry the skin and increase irritation, so use non-soap cleansers and avoid scented soaps that can contain irritating chemicals (including laundry soap).
  • Be good to your vagina! Don’t use douches, because they changes the natural balance of your vagina, increase the risk of irritation, push any infection you might have further up inside your body, and increase the risk of getting other sexually transmitted infections.