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.
Making Hiv Testing Routine
You might want to test more regularly than this, for example, if you are having sex with a new partner or feel you are more at risk. Groups who are more at risk are recommended to test more regularly. Testing every 3-6 months is often advised for men who have sex with men.
Testing regularly helps keep your mind at rest, and if you test positive, it means you can start treatment quickly, protecting your health.
Symptoms Of The Early Stages Of Hiv
Symptoms of HIV can vary between individuals however the first signs of infection generally appear within the first 1-2 months. Many, but not all, people will experience severe flu-like symptoms which is your bodys natural response to the virus. This is called the seroconversion period.
Its during this time that its crucial to identify if HIV is the cause, as your viral load is very high which greatly increases the risk of passing it on. And the only way to know for sure is by getting tested.
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What Is Acute Hiv Infection
There are three stages of HIV infection:
- Stage 1:Acute HIVinfection
- Stage 2:Chronic HIV infection
- Stage 3:AIDS
Acute HIV infection is the first stage of the infection. Usually within two to four weeks of infection, two-thirds of those with HIV will experience flu-like symptoms. These symptoms may last for several days or even weeks. However, some people may experience no symptoms at all.
In this stage, there is a large amount of HIV in your blood, which is known as the viral load. Studies have noted incredibly high viral loads during the acute stage, meaning you are more contagious at this time.
Symptoms Of Hiv In The Early Stage
HIV is a progressive disease which means that in most cases, it deteriorates as time goes on from the first infection. Some of the symptoms that come up in the early stages are mild, and in most cases, they can be mistaken for common diseases. Once the HIV gets entry into the body, most people will suffer from the short flu which in some cases can turn severe. The flu is the body’s natural way of responding to the intrusion of the virus, and it can be accompanied with other symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, skin rashes, sore throat and weight loss, which are discussed below.
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Integrase Strand Transfer Inhibitors
Integrase inhibitors stop the action of integrase. Integrase is a viral enzyme that HIV uses to infect T cells by putting HIV DNA into the human DNA.
Integrase inhibitors are usually among the first HIV drugs used in people who have recently contracted HIV. This is because they work well and have minimal side effects.
The following drugs are integrase inhibitors:
- tenofovir disoproxil fumarate
As a stand-alone drug, tenofovir alafenamide fumarate has received full FDA approval to treat chronic hepatitis B but only tentative FDA approval to treat HIV. A person with HIV who takes tenofovir alafenamide fumarate will likely receive it as part of a combination HIV drug, not as a stand-alone drug.
Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, emtricitabine, and lamivudine can treat hepatitis B as well.
Zidovudine was the first FDA-approved HIV drug. Its also known as azidothymidine or AZT. Zidovudine is rarely used in adults now. Its mainly given to babies born to HIV-positive mothers as a form of post-exposure prophylaxis .
Should I Wait To Test For Hiv
They will be able to talk to you about your situation and help you decide what to do next. If you visit a healthcare professional within 72 hours of when you think you were exposed to HIV, you may be offered PEP . This is a course of emergency HIV treatment that can prevent HIV infection. It must be started within 72 hours and be taken properly.
Unfortunately, PEP isnt always available and healthcare providers may only give it to you if they feel youre at a high risk of HIV. If you take PEP youll need to test before and after to ensure it has worked.
If the time to take PEP has passed, then most modern HIV tests are now able to detect HIV from around four weeks after exposure. Depending on the type of test you are offered and when your risk was, your doctor may ask you to come back for further tests and a follow-up to check your results.
If you think you have been exposed to HIV, it is in this early stage of infection that you are most likely to pass HIV on to others. Be extra careful during this time use condoms and dont share injecting equipment.
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Hiv Testing In A Health Care Setting Or Lab
If you take a test in a health care setting or a lab, a health care provider or lab technician will take your sample . If its a rapid test, you may be able to wait for the results, but if its a laboratory test, it can take several days for your results to be available. Your health care provider or counselor may talk with you about your risk factors, answer any questions you might have, and discuss next steps with you, especially if your result is positive.
- If the test comes back negative, and you havent had an exposure during the window period for the test you took, you can be confident you dont have HIV.
- If your HIV test result is positive, the lab will conduct follow-up testing, usually on the same sample as the first.
Types Of Hiv Tests And Their Window Periods
- Nucleic Acid Test A NAT can usually tell you if you have HIV infection 10 to 33 days after exposure
- Antigen/Antibody TestAn antigen/antibody test performed by a laboratory on blood from a vein can usually detect HIV infection 18 to 45 days after exposure. Antigen/antibody tests done with blood from a finger prick take longer to detect HIV .
- Antibody TestAn antibody test can take 23 to 90 days to detect HIV infection after an exposure. Most rapid tests and self-tests are antibody tests. In general, antibody tests that use blood from a vein detect HIV sooner after infection than tests done with blood from a finger prick or with oral fluid.
Ask your health care provider or test counselor about the window period for the test youre taking and whether you will need a follow-up test to confirm the results. If youre using a self-test, you can get that information from the materials included in the tests package.
If you get an HIV test after a potential HIV exposure and the result is negative, get tested again after the window period. Remember, you can only be sure you are HIV-negative if:.
- Your most recent test is after the window period
- You havent had a potential HIV exposure during the window period. If you do have an exposure, then you will need to be retested.
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Early Signs And Symptoms Of Hiv
Some people experience flu-like symptoms at the start of an HIV infection. These early HIV symptoms usually develop within 2-4 weeks in an infected person and may last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. This early stage of the infection is known as an acute HIV infection.
Possible early symptoms include:
- Night sweats
- Mouth ulcers
Itâs worth keeping in mind that such early symptoms can also be caused by other health conditionsânot just HIV. In short, if youâre experiencing these symptoms, it doesnât necessarily mean that you have HIVâwhich is why STI testing and consulting with your healthcare provider can be helpful next steps to take.
A Word About Window Periods
The window period refers to the time it takes for HIV to show up in an HIV test. The length of the window period will depend on the type of test you take.
If you feel like you may be at risk of HIV, do not wait, speak to a healthcare professional as soon as possible. The most important thing is to test.
If you test negative but think you may have been exposed to HIV more recently, you can take another test once the window period has passed.
The picture below shows the window periods for different HIV tests. Some tests can give you an accurate result within four weeks, while others can take three months to be accurate .
A healthcare worker will be able to explain how long the window period is for the test you are taking, and will tell you if they think youll need to test for HIV again.
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Im Pregnant When Should I Test
Testing for HIV during your pregnancy is very important. Left undiagnosed and untreated women living with HIV can pass the virus on to their unborn babies. In most countries, HIV tests are a routine part of the care women receive during pregnancy . Partners of pregnant women should also get tested during this time.
The earlier you test in your pregnancy the better. You’ll usually be tested in your first appointment, ideally before your tenth week. These tests should be repeated, either every three months or at least once again in your third trimester.
Your doctor will tell you everything you need to know about HIV testing alongside the other blood tests they do during pregnancy.
If you find out you are positive, youll be given treatment to prevent passing HIV on to your child. The earlier you start treatment, the greater the chance your child will be born HIV-negative. Check out our section on Pregnancy, childbirth & breastfeeding for more information.
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:
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How To Tell If Symptoms Are Hiv
There are three types of HIV tests:
- An NAT involves drawing blood from a vein. It can tell if you have HIV or how much virus is present in your blood. While an NAT can detect HIV sooner than other types of tests, this test is very expensive and not routinely used for screening individuals unless they recently had a high-risk exposure, or a possible exposure and have early symptoms of HIV infection. This test takes several days for results to come back.
- An antigen/antibody test is recommended for testing done in labs and is now common in the United States. It involves drawing blood from a vein, and results take several days to come back. There is also a rapid antigen/antibody test available that is done with a finger prick and takes 30 minutes or less to get results.
- HIV antibody tests only look for antibodies to HIV in your blood or oral fluid. In general, antibody tests that use blood from a vein can detect HIV sooner after infection than tests done with blood from a finger prick or with oral fluid. Antibody tests can detect an HIV infection 23 to 90 days after exposure. Most rapid tests and the only currently approved HIV self-test are antibody tests. They take 20 minutes or less to provide results.
Keep in mind, any positive result would necessitate a second test to confirm it. The only test that would not require a second confirmatory test is the NAT.
Benefits Of Early Detection And Treatment
If you think you may have an STD, its important to stop engaging in sexual activity and seek treatment. Early detection and treatment of STDs plays an important role in stopping the transmission of STDs between yourself, your sexual partners, and their sexual partners. In some cases, it can even save your life.
Some of the potential risks of untreated STDs include:
- pregnancy and birth-related risks, from untreated bacterial STDs, HIV, and hepatitis B
- organ damage, dementia, paralysis, or death, from untreated syphilis
Taking care of your sexual health is important. Not everyone will voluntarily disclose their STD status to you. You can take control of your sexual health by asking questions, screening new sexual partners, and having open and honest discussions about sexually transmitted diseases.
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The Fourth Stage: Full
Over the years, the diagnostic elements of this end-stage of HIV infection have undergone various changes under different classification systems. The advent of AIDS marks an important milestone in the course of the infection. Although very few people try to, and successfully do, bounce back by following a strict treatment plan, AIDS is still referred to as an irreversible diagnosis.
Recovery from individual opportunistic infections may occur, including a state of remission for cancerous tumours. Recurrence, however, can be both more frequent and intense. AIDS becomes more and more difficult to treat until finally, the infected person succumbs. This happens 18-24 months after the onset of AIDS.
Essentially, the components of AIDS consist of the direct consequences of damage by HIV, as well as the indirect consequences of immunosuppression.
How Soon Do Hiv Symptoms Appear
One of the main reasons why HIV is quite a devastating condition is the fact that it lacks early signs and no one can tell how long does it take for HIV symptoms to show. Some people are infected with the disease but they are not aware, and they might pass viruses to other people unknowingly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person in every 8 HIV positive people is unaware that they are positive.
Most people ask how long does it take for HIV symptoms to show after the initial infection. How long it takes for HIV symptoms to show up varies from one person to the other. In most people, it will take three to four weeks, but in some other people, it might go up to six months without any visible symptoms. The reason why it takes longer for the symptoms to show is that the virus takes time to infect the cells of the body before the infection can be spread throughout the body to affect a person’s wellbeing.
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Symptoms And Stages Of Hiv Infection
- There are three stages of HIV infection. The symptoms vary in type and severity from person-to-person.
- Stage 1 after initial infection can feel like flu but not everyone will experience this.
- Stage 2 is when many people start to feel better and may last for 10 years or more. During this time a person may have no symptoms.
- Stage 3 is when a persons immune system is very badly damaged and can no longer fight off serious infections and illnesses.
- The earlier a person is diagnosed with HIV and starts treatment, the better their health will be over time.
- Some people dont get any symptoms during stages 1 and 2, and may not know they have the virus, but they can still pass on HIV.
The signs of HIV infection can vary in type and severity from person-to-person, and some people may not have any symptoms for many years.
The stages below describe how HIV infection progresses in the body if it is left untreated. Without antiretroviral treatment for HIV, the virus replicates in the body and causes more and more damage to the immune system.
However with effective treatment, you can keep the virus under control and stop it from progressing. This is why its important to start treatment as soon as possible after testing positive.