HIV Symptoms

AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is a lifelong and potentially fatal disease brought about by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. Considering there are still many misconceptions about HIV/AIDS, it is essential to shed some light on this highly stigmatized and politicized condition.

HIV is classified as a sexually transmitted disease (STD); though, sexual activity is not the only way it can be transmitted. HIV is primarily transmitted through exposure to infected blood, but it can also be given to a child by a mother during pregnancy, during birth, or via breastfeeding.

When one contracts the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), they do not automatically get AIDS, which is a common misunderstanding. Without proper treatment, it takes HIV numerous years to compromise the immune system to the degree of the virus progressing into AIDS.

While HIV/AIDS is still incurable, we have seen so many developments with regards to its treatment over the last two decades that today there are medicines that can drastically impede the advancement of the virus. These medications are so effective that AIDS fatality rate in most developed countries has gone down significantly.

An Overview of HIV Symptoms

HIV/AIDS has stages of progression, so each stage is characterized by various symptoms.

Acute HIV

Also known as the primary infection stage, in acute HIV, most individuals begin to exhibit symptoms akin to the flu one or two months following their exposure to the virus. The symptoms are a fever, muscle pain, headaches, strep throat, swollen lymph nodes, and rashes, and they typically persist for 2-3 weeks.

The trouble with this stage is that these symptoms are usually quite mild, so they are hardly noticeable. Nonetheless, the viral load in the blood is very high at this stage. Consequently, the virus spreads at a faster rate in the primary infection stage compared to the stage that follows.

Chronic HIV

Also referred to as the clinical late infection stage, in chronic HIV, some individuals with the virus experience continuous swollen lymph nodes in this phase. However, besides the swelling of the lymph nodes, patients exhibit no noticeable signs and symptoms as the virus stays in the body and blood cells.

Unless you are on antiretroviral therapy, the chronic HIV phase continues for about 10 years; though, even with antiretroviral treatment, it may last for decades.

Symptomatic HIV

While the virus proceeds with its process of replication and destruction of the immune cells, which are the cells responsible for fending off pathogens, you may experience moderate infections or begin exhibiting chronic symptoms like fatigue, fever, diarrhea, weight loss, swollen lymph glands, and even shingles.

Advancement into AIDS

Owing to advanced antiviral therapies, the status of most patients with HIV in the United States does not progress to AIDS. However, HIV usually takes approximately 10 years to advance into AIDS without proper treatment.

When AIDS develops, the immune system gets compromised to a severe degree, which increases the risk of infections and diseases that can easily take advantage of a weakened immune system. Some of the symptoms associated with such infections during this stage may be extreme night sweats, persistent fever, chronic fatigue, recurrent diarrhea, weight loss, irregular spots or lesions on the tongue or in the mouth, and rashes.

If you suspect you may have contracted HIV or at a higher risk of transmission, consult with a physician immediately.

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Posted on May 5, 2023