When a person does have early symptoms of HIV, these may resemble a cold or flu.
[Testing is the only way to know if a person has HIV.]
This article will describe possible early symptoms of HIV, explaining how they may appear differently in a person. It will also provide information on possible later symptoms. It will then offer information on the outlook for a person living with HIV.
First we need to understand what is HIV:
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s a virus that breaks down certain cells in your immune system (your body’s defense against diseases that helps you stay healthy). When HIV damages your immune system, it’s easier to get really sick and even die from infections that your body could normally fight off.
If left untreated, the disease progresses over time through three stages, each with its own set of possible symptoms and complications — some severe. Treatment is really important (that’s why getting tested is so important). Without treatment, HIV can lead to AIDS. But with medicine, people with HIV can live long, healthy lives and stop the spread of HIV to others.
Regular antiretroviral treatment can reduce HIV to undetectable levels in the blood. At undetectable levels, the virus won’t progress to the later stages of HIV infection.
Early symptoms in primary HIV
The first noticeable stage is primary HIV infection. This stage is also called acute retroviral syndrome (ARS), or acute HIV infection. Because HIV infection at this stage usually causes flu-like symptoms, it’s possible for someone in this stage to think their symptoms are due to a severe flu rather than HIV. Fever is the most common symptom.
Other symptoms include:
One of the earliest indications of an HIV infection can be a fever. A fever in early-stage HIV infection may be a symptom of the virus rapidly multiplying in the body.
A large proportion of HIV-positive patients experience frequent headaches that often impact their quality of life, according to findings from a cross-sectional study published in Headache.
✓ Sore throat
In people who are HIV-positive, a fungal infection known as oral thrush can also cause a prolonged sore throat.
✓ Excessive fatigue
Of the many possible symptoms of HIV infection, fatigue can have a subtle, yet profound, effect on the quality of life. Low energy can make it hard to socialize, exercise, and even carry out everyday tasks.
There are ways to battle HIV fatigue and reclaim some of that lost energy. First, it’s important for a person living with HIV to understand the possible causes of HIV fatigue. Then, they can learn how to minimize its frequency and impact on their day-to-day life.
✓ Skin rash
Most people with HIV develop skin problems. Rash is a common symptom of HIV, and many different types of skin rashes are associated with the condition. They may be a symptom of HIV itself or the result of a concurrent infection or condition.
✓ Aching muscles or joints
Other common symptoms of infection include muscle ache and joint or body pain, rheumatic disease. These can be caused by the HIV infection alone or by other viruses or bacteria, and inflammation often accompanies.
After acute infection, HIV is considered chronic. This means that the disease is ongoing. Symptoms of chronic HIV can vary. There can be long periods when the virus is present but symptoms are minimal.
In more advanced stages of chronic HIV, symptoms can be much more severe than they are in ARS. People with advanced, chronic HIV can experience episodes of:
✓Coughing or breathing difficulties
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