Symptoms of HIV

This article contains information on the different symptoms an HIV positive patient may experience during the different stages of the disease. It details the symptoms experienced in the early, medium and long term if the disease is left untreated.

Acute symptoms of HIV infection

The acute or initial symptoms experience by somebody who catches HIV can be very similar to the flu or other common diseases. It is for this reason that it is recommended that if you think you may have been exposed to HIV that you get tested as soon as possible. Early detection of the disease may allow treatments to be used that prevent the virus from spreading within your body.

The potential early symptoms experienced by some but not all of those infected are:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Swollen lymph nodes (can be felt in the neck, armpits and groin)
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Skin rash
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat

Different combinations of these symptoms may be experienced by different people. It is recommended that if you have been taking part in any risky behaviours that you get yourself tested for HIV, especially if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.

Symptoms of chronic HIV infection

The next stage of the disease is the chronic or latent stage HIV infection. This stage will vary in length from person to person lasting for only months in some to over a decade in others. Even though the virus is systematically attacking and destroying cells within the immune system this stage is mostly asymptomatic, it has no or few symptoms associated with it. This period is also that in which the virus is least likely to be passed on to others due to low levels of free virus particles within the bodily fluids of the infected person.

The symptoms of chronic or late stage Human Immunodeficiency Virus

This is the final stage in HIV infection. Colloquially known as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) but now also referred to advanced or late stage HIV infection, it is typified by the weakening of the immune system to such an extent that normally harmless bacteria become a deadly risk to the patient. These opportunistic infections can each cause a wide range of additional symptoms, leading to difficulties in diagnosing late stage HIV by symptomatic reference alone. In addition to this normally rare cancers can become a problem, along with more common infections. If the patient is unaware that they have HIV then testing will need to be done to confirm this.

According to the UK's NHS the more common symptoms of the late stage HIV infections itself are:

  • Persistent tiredness
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent diarrhoea
  • Blurred vision
  • White spots on tongue/mouth
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Temperature of more than 37oC (110oF) for a few weeks
  • Swollen glands for more than 12 weeks

These symptoms may be present in a late stage HIV sufferer along with the potential symptoms caused by other opportunistic infections. Due to the weakening of their immune system the disease eventually leads to the death of the patient.

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