Table of Contents
- What is HIV?
- Common HIV Symptoms
- Acute Illness
- Asymptomatic Period
- Importance of Early Testing
- Advanced Infection (End Stage HIV, AIDS)
- Prevention Tips, Lowering Risk of Infection
- Conclusion: Preventing AIDS & Slowing HIV
- Additional Resources
Otherwise known as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the HIV virus attacks the body's white blood cells, specifically cells that produce antibodies, and eventually turns them into virus producing cells instead of antibody producing cells.
As the virus progresses, it will attack and eventually destroy the bodies’ CD4 white blood cells. Once enough of the bodies’ CD4 cells are gone, it can no longer fight off infections like it once could. This can lead to the final stage of HIV- AIDS (described below).
- It can take anywhere from a few months to many years (10 or more) for an infected person to acquire full blown AIDS from HIV.
- If diagnosed early and given access to the advanced treatments of today’s antiviral therapy, many HIV sufferers never even acquire AIDS.
Varying from person to person, there is no exact, rigid timeline for symptoms in those persons with HIV could present, though there are general possibilities in every case. That being said, HIV will follow a general pattern in most cases, covered under three main categories.
In general, HIV differs from many other STDs because physical symptoms tend to be the same between men and women, with a few exceptions.
- Men may get an ulcer on the penis.
- Men may experience Hypogonadism – which is a low production of sex hormones
- Low testosterone in men can lead to Erectile Dysfunction, weight loss, muscle wasting and fatigue
- These patients are routinely treated with Testosterone Replacement Therapy
About 80% of HIV infected people will go through ‘flu-like symptoms’ from about two to four weeks, (lasting about 1-2 weeks) also called ‘acute HIV infection’. This is the primary stage of HIV and will last until the patient’s body has created viral antibodies. The following four symptoms will present in most cases:
- Rash on body
- Sore throat
- Severe & extensive headaches
Less common symptoms could include the following:
- Lymph nodes swollen
- Ulcers in mouth or genitals
- Painful joints
- Vomiting, nausea
- Night Sweats
- Painful, aching muscles
After initial symptoms eventually disappear, patients might not show any other symptoms for a period lasting months to years. The actual virus is replicating at a slower rate and beginning to weaken the immune system during this stage.
Patients probably won’t look or even feel sick during this stage and seeming appear completely healthy. Infected persons might think whatever they had must have ‘just gone away’, or they fought it off, and are fine.
See more: Anonymous HIV Symptom Checker
All the while, it is extremely easy to transfer the HIV virus to others, making this asymptomatic period extraordinarily dangerous to those who don’t know what they have, and others they infect. Because these people probably have no idea there is anything wrong, they aren’t going to realize extra precautions need to be made.
For the reasons stated above, it is extremely important for anyone who thinks there may be a problem, or anyone who have noticed some of the symptoms of the acute stage listed above after unprotected sex or other contact with infected individuals. Get tested early during the acute stage.
Though it may take years, HIV will eventually weaken a person’s immune system to the extreme, making it all but ineffective. They can easily get sick and might seem to be sick all of the time. Even what might be a minor cold to most people can turn into a huge, traumatic (even deadly) ordeal to these individuals.
HIV has now progressed to stage three, commonly referred to as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). This is the final stage of the disease, and the worst. Not only can these people suffer from a great number of infections that healthy people are normally able to easily fight off (called opportunistic infections), they also might show some of the symptoms below:
- Nausea & vomiting
- Persistent diarrhea
- Rapid weight loss
- Chronic (long term) fatigue
- Shortness of breath, persistent cough
- Repetitive night sweats, fever, chills
- Lesions, rashes or/and sores around the genitals, mouth, nose, or under the skin
- Neurological disorders such as (but not limited to) memory loss or confusion
- Eventual death
Remember, it isn’t HIV, or the AIDS virus, that ultimately kills someone. They die because their immune system can no longer fight off infections; it is that infection that will kill them.
If a person becomes infected with HIV, there is no known cure available yet. The absolute best chances that a person has to receive the best possible treatment and continue to live a long, healthy and normal life is early detection of the infection.
- Because unprotected sex is the leading vector for transmission, safe sex is the best prevention method.
- If possible, try to know your partner’s sexual history. Ask about their Status!
- Avoid illegal drug use requiring needles or avoid sharing needles. Sharing dirty needles is among the top methods for STD transmission.
- Get tested regularly.
- Ask your health care provider about prevention methods during your next visit.
- Educate yourself about HIV and AIDS.
Though today’s antiretroviral treatment doesn’t cure HIV, it can prevent the virus from replicating. In other words, it is like removing all oxygen from a burning building. You aren’t getting rid of the fire in the building directly but you are cutting off its fuel source so it can no longer burn.
In order for HIV to be effective as a virus, and eventually turn into AIDS, it needs to be able to produce more of itself. With early detection and treatment, you’re stopping that from happening.
As always, the earlier the virus is detected and treatment has begun, the higher and longer your quality of life!
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention||www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics||The CDC provides diverse resources related to HIV and AIDS.|
|National Institute of Health||hivinfo.nih.gov||HIVinfo.nih.gov offers access to the latest, federally approved HIV/AIDS medical practice guidelines, HIV treatment and prevention clinical trials, and other research information.|
|MedlinePlus||www.medlineplus.gov||MedlinePlus provides valuable and high-quality information on HIV and AIDS.|
|World Health Organization||www.who.int||World Health Organization directs and coordinates the world’s response to HIV/AIDS.|
|U.S. Department of Health and Human Services||www.hiv.gov||The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a library of resources for HIV prevention and treatment.|
|UNAIDS||www.unaids.org/en||UNAIDS provides vital HIV services where they are most needed.|
- HIV.gov. (n.d.). Symptoms of HIV. Retrieved August 2021
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). About HIV. Retrieved August 2021
- MedlinePlus. (n.d.). HIV/AIDS. Retrieved August 2021
- NHS. (n.d.). HIV and AIDS - Symptoms. Retrieved August 2021
- University of California San Francisco Health. (n.d.). AIDS Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved August 2021
- TeensHealth. (n.d.). HIV and AIDS (for Teens). Retrieved August 2021
- Avert. (n.d.). Symptoms and Stages of HIV Infection. Retrieved August 2021
- Planned Parenthood. (n.d.). What are the Symptoms of HIV & AIDS? Retrieved August 2021
- World Health Organization. (n.d.). HIV/AIDS. Retrieved August 2021
- NICHD. (n.d.). What are Common Symptoms of HIV? Retrieved August 2021