Healthy Living

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of HIV?

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of HIV?

Key Takeaways

  • HIV infection is an infection that is caused by HIV virus.
  • The infection of HIV is a lifelong condition.
  • Infected people where the infection has reached AIDS stage lose a lot of energy and become weak.

HIV infection is an infection that is caused by the HIV virus. The virus infects and destroys the CD4+ cells in the human body hence weakening the immune system. It is transmitted from one person to another through exchange of fluids. These fluids may involve semen, vaginal fluids, blood or breast milk.

The HIV virus gets incorporated into the blood of the patient and starts replicating itself. When the virus gets into the body it undergoes three different stages of development before the last stage where it turns to AIDS. During these early stages the victim may not experience any symptoms, and as a result a person may not even think that he or she has the infection unless they are tested for it.

So, briefly, let us look at some facts about HIV. The infection of HIV is a lifelong condition. There is no known cure for it as of now, and because it destroys the very defense mechanism of the body, the infected individual is unable to fight the virus on his or her own. Therefore, once one has been infected with HIV the virus remains in their system for life.

The following are the stages of HIV and their possible symptoms.

Acute infection (early stage)

This is the most immediate stage after a person has been infected with the virus. The period lasts for only 1-2 weeks where a patient may experience flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all.
Such symptoms may include:

 

Experiencing such symptoms does not always prove that the victim or patient has HIV. These symptoms may be resulting from some other infection(s) in the body more especially sexually transmitted infections. These symptoms appear as a result of the body trying to fight the virus.

Because it is so easy to dismiss these symptoms, thinking that it might just be the flu, if there is a chance that one has been exposed to HIV recently, then it is always better for them to get a blood test.

It is always important to use a condom to prevent yourself from the virus and get tested to confirm the infection. This stage is also referred to as seroconversion stage.

Latency stage

In this stage, we can say that the virus is latent. The adjective latent means existing but nit yet very noticeable, active or well developed. We thus say that the HIV virus is in the Latency stage. This is the second stage of the infection after the virus has circulated in the body. This period may last for a very long time without the victim noticing any serious symptoms. However, as the virus continues staying in the body, it reproduces and makes new copies of itself. It may last for more than 10 years. That is the reason we see or meet people who have been living with the HIV virus for a very long time like ten years and at times more. Some of these may look very healthy as they may maintain their big bodies.

The patient can still transmit the virus to other people during this stage and this is the most common way that HIV spreads. Often people in the asymptomatic latency stage lead a completely normal life without even being aware that they are carrying the infection. During this period, if the individual engages in unprotected sex or is a drug user and shares needles with other users, there is a very high possibility that HIV will get transmitted.

Symptomatic

Coming from the word symptom, symptomatic is an adjective with the meaning of 'being a sign of an illness or a problem'. This is the last and most dangerous stage of HIV. This stage causes very serious fungal and bacterial infections. During this stage, the immune system of the body is weakened and the body suffers many opportunistic infections. This stage is called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome of AIDS. AIDS and HIV cannot be used interchangeably as the former refers to an advanced stage of the disease which is a combination of various  symptoms, while the latter refers to the virus or an infection by the virus which could possibly never show any symptoms or develop into AIDS.

Such symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Consistent illness
  • Mouth and skin infections
  • Sweating at night
  • Loss of weight
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Opportunistic infections including pneumonia, lungs infections and tuberculosis

Other HIV Symptoms

  1. As the infection stays in the body, it replicates and makes copies of itself. When it reaches its last stage, the immune system is weakened and the body suffers many infections.
  2. Infected people where the infection has reached AIDS stage lose a lot of energy and become weak.
  3. When the virus advances to AIDS there are dangerous symptoms one experiences such as mental confusion, coma, vomiting and some memory loss.
  4. Absence of menstrual periods
  5. Changes in the menstruation cycle
  6. Infections such as gonorrhea
  7. Chlamydia
  8. Trichomoniasis
  9. Genital warts
  10. Cervical cancer
  11. Fatigue
  12. People suffering from the virus also experience severe ulcers. They develop ulcers in the throat and mouth which makes it difficult to eat.
  13. To men infected with the virus, they may have rashes in the anus, the groin and the penis.

         

Conclusion

HIV infection is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). There is no cure for the infection and it remains with and in the infected individual for the rest of his or her life. If detected early, the HIV infection can be kept under control using anti-retroviral therapy (ART), which drastically slows down the multiplication rate of the virus, preventing it from completely damaging the patient’s immune system and progressing into AIDS.

However, early infections of HIV are often missed because the symptoms if any resemble other infections like the flu. Some of these symptoms include; low grade fever, swollen Lymph Nodes, muscle ache, sore throat and dry cough. If an individual could have been recently exposed to HIV and within a couple of weeks starts experiencing these symptoms, it would be best to get a blood test done because the earlier the treatment starts, the better the chances of keeping the infection under control.

During the post-early infection, there is an asymptomatic stage where the infected individual leads a perfectly normal life, and very often he or she is not aware of the infection. The individual can however transmit the virus at this stage as the infection continues to proliferate within the host’s body.

Once the immune system of the infected person has been damaged to a point where it is useless against attacks by pathogens on the body, then the HIV infection has progressed to the symptomatic stage or AIDS. With the immune system compromised, the body is left vulnerable to other diseases and the patient develops all sorts of complications ultimately leading to death if left unchecked.

The bottom line

Most of HIV symptoms mostly vary from one person to the other depending on the strength of the immune system. These symptoms also vary with stages.