What Are The Signs Of An Hiv Infection
Fever is usually the first sign of an HIV infection. Many people also experience other flu-like symptoms as the disease manifests itself two to four weeks after exposure. This early, acute phase of HIV can last up to several weeks. Some of the other possible signs of the infection include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss
Knowing you have HIV is almost impossible without a test. Thats because the disease can masquerade as other illnesses and sometimes may not have symptoms at all at first. At least 13% of people with HIV dont even know they have the virus. This makes it much more likely that they will spread the disease to others. If youve had unprotected sex recently, the only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.
The First Stage Of Hiv: Acute Infection
Acute infection can occur through exposure to the bodily fluids of an infected person. Any behaviour that involves you being or becoming exposed to someone elses bodily fluids carries a risk of infection.
The most common methods of HIV transmission are unprotected sexual activity and the sharing of needles, especially by drug users. Additionally, HIV-positive pregnant women, women in labour and those breastfeeding their babies are also able to infect their children.
Stages Of Hiv Infection
Stages of Infection
There are four stages of HIV and as with all illnesses, how it progresses, how long it takes and the affect it has on the individual depends on a number of factors for example, general health, lifestyle, diet etc.
Stage 1: Infection
HIV quickly replicates in the body after infection. Some people develop short lived flu-like symptoms for example, headaches, fever, sore throat and a rash within days to weeks after infection. During this time the immune system reacts to the virus by developing antibodies this is referred to as sero-conversion.
As the name suggests, this stage of HIV infection does not cause outward signs or symptoms. A person may look and feel well but HIV is continuing to weaken their immune system. This stage may last several years and without a HIV test many people do not know they are infected.
Over time the immune system becomes damaged and weakened by HIV and symptoms develop. Initially they can be mild but they do worsen, symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, mouth ulcers, thrush and severe diarrhoea. The symptoms are caused by the emergence of opportunistic infections they are referred to as opportunistic infections because they take advantage of a persons weakened immune system. Some examples of opportunistic infections are PCP, toxoplasmosis, TB and kaposi sarcoma.
Stage 4:AIDS/Progression of HIV to AIDS
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When To Contact A Doctor
Anyone who is showing symptoms of HIV should contact a doctor as soon as possible. This is especially important if the individual has recently had sexual contact with someone else or shared a needle with someone else.
HIV can remain asymptomatic for a long time. For this reason, anyone who has recently had unprotected sex and is concerned about exposure to HIV should contact a doctor as soon as they can, even if they do not have any symptoms. The same goes for anyone who has recently shared a needle.
It can be difficult to discuss the possibility of having HIV. However, without proper treatment, HIV can be life threatening. In these situations, it is very important for people to put their long-term health first and to discuss the matter with a doctor.
How Long Can You Live With Hiv
There are so many factors involved in providing an answer to a question like this. Of all of these, risk exposure levels, treatment adherence and lifestyle choices stand out. This is what we know:
- Five years after exposure, approximately 15% of HIV-positive people will have progressed to AIDS.
- Of those which progressed to AIDS, half would have died, by the end of those same five years.
- Of the remaining 85% of HIV-positive people, less than one third will have constitutional symptoms of infection.
- Less than two thirds of that 85% will be completely asymptomatic.
- The remaining in-betweeners are most likely to only have lymphadenopathy.
- 10 years after exposure, 50% will have progressed and deteriorated.
- 80% of those who deteriorate by this time will have succumbed.
- Of the 50% who have not progressed to AIDS, one half will have constitutional symptoms.
- One third will only have lymphadenopathy.
- The rest will be asymptomatic with CD4 cell counts ranging between 200-500.
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How Is Hiv Treated In Children
Children with an HIV infection should get the treatment as early as possible. The treatment involves the administration of antiretroviral drugs, which can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system. The drug is available in the form of syrup for children, although they may not always be practical considering that they must be taken in large quantities and have to be always refrigerated owing to their short shelf lives, .
The antiretroviral drugs given to pregnant women in early pregnancy and to the baby at birth have been found to greatly reduce the chance of HIV infection in the infant .
Children below the age of 15 years can also get benefited by the administration of an antibiotic called co-trimoxazole, which can prevent some childhood infections. It has been found to reduce the mortality rate in children with HIV by more than 40%.
Causes And Stages Of Acute Hiv Infection
HIV is caused by a retrovirus which attacks the bodyâs immune system, specifically CD4 blood cells which are responsible for fighting infections. During acute HIV infection, the HIV retrovirus destroys a lot of CD4 cells as it replicates. This can cause some people to fall ill with flu-like symptoms.
Acute HIV infection is the first stage of HIV infection. It is followed by two further stages:
Clinical latency, also known as asymptomatic HIV infection or chronic HIV infection. The HIV retrovirus continues to replicate within the body, but at low levels. The infected person may not experience any HIV-related symptoms, but can still transmit the virus to other people. Without treatment, this stage can last around 10 years. Towards the end of this phase, the personâs CD4 count starts to decrease and they may start to show symptoms.
AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. Without treatment, a person can expect to develop AIDS after approximately 10 years. During this stage, a personâs immune system is badly damaged and they are susceptible to severe illnesses such as chronic cryptosporidiosis, lymphoma and pneumonia. Without treatment, a person with AIDS will typically only live around three years.
Treatment can slow the progression of HIV infection, often by decades.
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What Should I Do If I Think I Could Have Hiv
Only an HIV test can tell you whether you have HIV.
Try not to guess based on any symptoms you may or may not have, or on the HIV status of a person you have had sex with.
If you test, tell whoever tests you if youve recently taken risks or had symptoms similar to seroconversion illness, as this will affect the kind of HIV test you should have.
To be on the safe side, and until you know your test result, use condoms to protect anyone you have sex with.
You can also call THT Direct on 0808 802 1221.
Early Symptoms In Primary Hiv
The first noticeable stage is primary HIV infection. This stage is also called acute retroviral syndrome , or acute HIV infection. Because HIV infection at this stage usually causes flu-like symptoms, its 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:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , primary HIV symptoms may show up two to four weeks after initial exposure. Symptoms can continue for up to several weeks. However, some people may exhibit the symptoms only for a few days.
People with early HIV sometimes dont show any symptoms, yet they can still transmit the virus to others. This is attributed to the fast, unrestrained viral replication that occurs in the early weeks after contracting the virus.
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How Is Hiv Diagnosed
Diagnosis of HIV infection during infancy depends on the detection of the virus. Since all infants born to HIV-infected mothers have a positive antibody test at birth because of the passive transfer of the HIV antibody across the placenta, virological testing is used to confirm the diagnosis.
For infants born to HIV-infected mothers, viral diagnostic testing is usually performed within the first 2 days of life, at 1 to 2 months of age, and at 4 to 6 months of age. A diagnosis of HIV infection can be made with two positive virologic tests obtained from different blood samples.
For children over 18 months, adolescents, or adults, diagnosis is made by testing the blood for the presence of HIV antibody.
The Most Common Symptoms Of Seroconversion Are:
- sore throat
- rash over the body.
Seroconversion is a sign that the immune system is reacting to the presence of the virus in the body. Its also the point at which the body produces antibodies to HIV. Once seroconversion has happened, an HIV test will detect antibodies and give a positive result.
Seroconversion illness happens to most people shortly after infection. It can be severe enough to put someone in hospital or so mild that its mistaken for something like flu although a blocked or runny nose is not usually a symptom.
If you do have HIV, your body fluids are highly infectious during the early weeks and months after transmission. However, once youre on effective treatment and your viral load becomes undetectable you cannot pass on HIV.
It can take up to six months from starting treatment to become undetectable.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Later Hiv
As HIV weakens someones immune system, they may experience signs of other illnesses:
- weight loss
- an increase in herpes or cold sore outbreaks
- swollen glands in the groin, neck or armpit
- long-lasting diarrhoea
But remember: people who dont have HIV can also get any of these they can be the signs of other illnesses.
A weakened immune system may leave someone more open to serious infections such as:
How Long Does It Take To Show Symptoms Of Hiv
The human immunodeficiency virus is a virus that attacks your bodys immune system. Left untreated, it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome . Early diagnosis is key to slowing down disease progression.
Symptoms may vary from person to person, but knowing the early symptoms that could present can help you get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
This article will discuss the various stages of HIV, how symptoms may present, how testing works, and what to expect if you test positive for the virus.
Verywell / Danie Drankwalter
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hiv
No two people with HIV will have the same symptoms, and some may not have any at all. But the infection can cause some common changes over time.
In the first few weeks: These first, flu-like symptoms happen because your body is reacting to HIV. Your immune system is trying to fight it off. The symptoms at this stage can include:
- Aches and pains in muscles and joints
Keep in mind that even if you have these symptoms, that doesnât automatically mean you are HIV-positive. Many different illnesses can cause these problems. Talk to a doctor or an HIV testing facility if you think you might be infected.
At this early stage of HIV infection, itâs important to know that you may not get accurate results from an HIV test. It can take 3-12 weeks for enough signs of the virus to show up on routine tests for the infection, which measure antibodies against HIV. A new kind of screening, called a nucleic acid test, can detect the virus itself during this early stage, but itâs expensive and not usually used for routine HIV testing.
Let the testing site or your doctor know if you think you might be recently infected. Also, be sure to use a condom every time you have sex, and take other steps to prevent spreading the virus.
After years with untreated HIV, youâre likely to get infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi that your body is no longer strong enough to fight off. They can be a sign that your infection has gone from HIV to AIDS. You might have:
Latency Causes A Break In Symptoms
After initial exposure and possible primary infection, HIV may transition into a stage called clinically latent infection. Its also referred to as asymptomatic HIV infection due to a noticeable lack of symptoms. This lack of symptoms includes possible chronic symptoms.
According to HIV.gov, latency in HIV infection can last for 10 or 15 years. This doesnt mean that HIV is gone, nor does it mean that the virus cant be transmitted to others. Clinically latent infection may progress to the third and final stage of HIV, also referred to as AIDS.
The risk for progression is higher if a person with HIV isnt receiving treatment, such as antiretroviral therapy. Its important to take prescribed medications during all stages of HIV even if there arent any noticeable symptoms. There are several medications used for HIV treatment.
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Stage : Acute Hiv Infection
After a person comes into contact with HIV, the virus replicates quickly, and the blood contains high levels of the virus. At this time, it can easily transmit to others through blood, semen and preseminal fluids, rectal fluid, vaginal fluid, and breast milk.
Within 24 weeks of exposure to the virus, some people develop a nonspecific syndrome with a fever and other flu-like symptoms. This may last for several days or weeks.
Not everyone experiences these symptoms, however. If a person does not undergo testing, it is possible for HIV to progress without any indication that it is in the body.
The flu-like symptoms of a stage 1 HIV infection may include:
- swollen glands
- nausea or vomiting
These symptoms are collectively known as a seroconversion illness. They represent the bodys natural response to an infection as it attempts to kill off the virus. However, the human body cannot completely remove this virus once it is present.
At this stage, the virus replicates using the bodys CD4 T cells and spreads throughout the body. In doing so, it destroys CD4 T cells.
Eventually, this process stabilizes. The immune system reduces the number of viral particles, and levels of CD4 T cells may rise. However, the number of these cells may not return to its original level.
What To Expect Next
If you find out you are HIV-positive, its important to keep in mind the condition is treatable. Antiretroviral therapy is recommended for all people with HIV, regardless of how long theyve had the virus or how healthy they are. It works by lowering the amount of virus in the body to very low levels. This treatment can also slow the progression of the infection and protect the immune system.
Taking ART medications is vital to slowing the progression of HIV. Left untreated, HIV will progress to the second stage. During this stage, people may experience no symptoms at all. If no treatment is administered, an individual can stay in this stage for 10 to 15 years.
For people who have no symptoms of an acute HIV infection, it takes an average of seven years to proceed to AIDS.
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How Do Children Acquire Hiv
Children can acquire HIV from the mother who has the infection, while they are in the womb or when they breastfeed . The virus can also transmit through the following:
- Blood transfusion, when an infected persons blood is given to an otherwise healthy person
- Use of contaminated syringes at hospitals or for scarification
- Sexual abuse, such as forced sexual interaction involving penetration
- Unprotected Sexual intercourse . An HIV infected person can transmit the virus to the partner.
- Scarification , for which an infected needle is used
Note that HIV cannot spread via:
- Short-term memory loss
Stage : Chronic Hiv Infection
After the acute stage has ended and if the person has not received treatment the virus remains active, reproducing at very low levels but continuing to damage immune cells.
At this stage, there are usually no symptoms or very mild ones. This is why doctors sometimes call stage 2 asymptomatic HIV infection or clinical latency. The virus can still pass to others during this stage, even if it causes no symptoms.
Without treatment, this stage can last for 10 years or more before the person develops stage 3 HIV.
However, modern antiretroviral medications can stop the infection from progressing. These drugs greatly reduce the amount of HIV in the body, the viral load, to very low levels.
When the viral load is so low that tests cannot detect it, HIV can no longer damage the immune system or transmit to other people. Some people refer to this as undetectable equals untransmittable or U=U.
A person with stage 2 HIV who takes effective antiretroviral therapy may never develop stage 3 HIV.
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