Symptoms of HIV Infection
What is HIV?
As a retrovirus, Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) eventually leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). This incurable disease results in progressive failure of the patient’s immune system, which when weakened leaves the patient susceptible to illnesses such as pneumonia, Tuberculosis, and even cancer. Symptoms of HIV infection often depend on the infection stage, and can range from simple ones such as flu-like symptoms to serious ones such as weight loss, fatigue, and depression, if left untreated.
However, earlier treatment of HIV allows an individual to live a normal life. Therefore, if one has unprotected sex with an infected partner, a HIV test should be done immediately, but sometimes the body may not have developed HIV antibodies to show in the test. Therefore, the patient is advised to return for another test after three months.
Stages of HIV Infection
HIV progresses in the following 3 distinct phases, each containing different symptoms:
1. Acute Infection
Occurs when the patient is first infected, whereby he or she experiences acute flu-like illnesses. HIV is most contagious during this stage. After 4-6 weeks of infection, most people begin experiencing a flu-like illness known as acute retroviral syndrome (ARS), when the immune initiates a fight against HIV, and this can last up to four weeks. Another crucial symptom is a dark skin rash on the face, feet, hands, torso, etc.
2. Clinical Latency
After this phase, the infection can become asymptomatic for several years, even up to 10, during which it replicates in the lymph and begins attacking the immune system. At this stage, individuals may feel perfectly healthy. However, they may have slightly swollen lymph nodes as the only signs of HIV infection.
3. Late Stage
Once the immune is severely weakened, one may start experiencing constitutional symptoms that include weight loss, fatigue, and night sweats, which affect the entire body, instead of individual organs. As the virus advances into later stages, the immune system is severely weakened and the individual may begin experiencing other infections, often resulting in these symptoms: dry cough, weight loss, night sweats, cold sores, yeast infection, fungal nail infection, weakness and numbness, confusion and difficulty concentration.
Note that the signs and symptoms of HIV infection may vary from one individual to another. Some individuals may not experience any symptom at all despite infection. Therefore, the only way to be sure is to go for an HIV test, even if the individual exposed to irresponsible sexual behavior experiences no symptoms at all.