Symptoms of HIV infection

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The symptoms associated with HIV will not be identical in every single person, however, the following symptoms in the various stages of the HIV infection are predominantly noticeable:

 

STAGE 1 – Acute HIV

Acute HIV (also known as primary infection) is the stage a few weeks after being infected with the HIV virus.

The HIV symptoms during this phase are generally quite mild. These early HIV symptoms include fever, headaches, diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, skin rash, loss of appetite, lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes*), pharyngitis (sore throats) muscle aches and weak, or sore, limbs.

Throughout the acute HIV stage, the body begins to produce antibodies to fight against the HIV virus. Many of the above symptoms caused by the HIV infection are similar to those associated with flu. This leads to a misdiagnosis and people are often unaware that they have contracted the HIV virus until more severe HIV symptoms are experienced. In addition to this, HIV test results may not be accurate in the acute HIV stage because there are not enough HIV antibodies in the bloodstream.

*Lymph nodes –a spherical organ in connection with the immune system which acts as a trap for foreign particles (such as the HIV virus).

 

STAGE 2 – Asymptomatic HIV

In the Asymptomatic stage, no (or few) HIV symptoms are experienced – as long as the infected person takes the correct prescribed medication, usually antiretroviral therapy.  This stage, with no HIV symptoms, can last anything from 8 – 10 years, depending on the individual.

The medication helps to reduce the level of HIV. Although no symptoms of the HIV virus are present, it is important to note that the HIV virus is still reproducing HIV cells which destroy the immune system.

 

STAGE 3 – Symptomatic HIV

Once symptomatic HIV stage is reached, the immune system has been severely disrupted and damaged by the virus. Thus, serious HIV symptoms are experienced.

These HIV symptoms include permanently swollen lymph nodes, night sweats, chronic diarrhea and fever, excessive weight loss, diseases (particularly fungal diseases), recurring headaches, breathlessness, dry coughing and inflammation of the skin (dermatitis).

This stage of the HIV infection can last up to 3 years. The HIV symptoms cause the body and immune system to become extremely weak and the suffering patient often contracts other diseases.

 

STAGE 4 – Progression from HIV to AIDS

A person is said to have AIDS when one (or more) opportunistic diseases and infections start to develop and begin to destroy the body.

During this stage, the HIV symptoms as mentioned in stage 3 will be experienced, as well as the symptoms relating the opportunistic disease. Examples of opportunistic diseases are cancer, pneumonia, neurological diseases.

 

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