Despite major advances in our understanding of the etiology, pathogenesis, and natural history of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), it remains a uniformly fatal disease. Significant improvements in survival of HIV-infected patients have occurred consequent upon early intervention with antiretroviral therapy and use of prophylaxis against Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. In addition, better outcomes have been reported in HIV-infected individuals with P. carinii pneumonia requiring intensive care and mechanical ventilation. It is against this background that HIV-infected individuals continue to utilize intensive care resources.

The most common reason for HIV-infected patients to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) is respiratory failure secondary to P. carinii or bacterial pneumonia; this accounts for two-thirds of all admissions with additional causes listed in Table 1.

Table 1 Reasons for the admission of HIV-infected patients to the ICU

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