What Are The Symptoms Of Hiv
Not everyone will have identical symptoms because it depends on the person and what stage of the disease they are in.
There are three stages of human immunodeficiency virus . Each stage has a unique set of symptoms. These include the following
Stage 1: Acute HIV infection
This stage starts around two to four weeks after getting HIV. The symptoms are similar to those of the flu, which last for a week or two. Symptoms include the following
Stage : Acute Hiv Infection
Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, about two-thirds of people will have a flu-like illness. This is the bodys natural response to HIV infection.
Flu-like symptoms can include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Mouth ulcers
These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. But some people do not have any symptoms at all during this early stage of HIV.
Dont assume you have HIV just because you have any of these symptomsthey can be similar to those caused by other illnesses. But if you think you may have been exposed to HIV, get an HIV test.
Heres what to do:
How To Prevent Hiv From Progressing
The most effective way is to take antiretroviral medication as soon as possible and to do so consistently as prescribed.
Antiretroviral therapy keeps the immune system healthy and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to virtually zero.
The sooner a person receives a diagnosis, the sooner they can begin treatment. Early treatment can improve the persons outlook and lower the risk of the virus passing on to others.
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Lack Of Symptoms In Early Stages
ARS is common once a person has HIV. Still, this isnt the case for everyone. Some people have HIV for years before they know they have it. According to HIV.gov, symptoms of HIV may not appear for a decade or longer. This doesnt mean that cases of HIV without symptoms are less serious. Also, a person who doesnt experience symptoms could still transmit HIV to others.
Symptoms in early HIV tend to appear if the rate of cell destruction is high. Not having symptoms can mean that not as many CD4 cells, a type of white blood cell, are killed early on in the disease. Even though a person has no symptoms, they still have the virus. Thats why regular HIV testing is critical to prevent transmission. Its also important to understand the difference between a CD4 count and a viral load.
A Note About Treatment
While theres currently no cure for HIV, treatments have come an incredibly long way since the virus was first identified. Due to advances in treatment, people living with HIV can have long, healthy lives.
There are now many types of antiretroviral drugs available to treat HIV. According to the National Institutes of Health , taking antiretroviral medications each day as directed can reduce viral load to undetectable levels in 6 months or less .
Not only can having an undetectable viral load keep the immune system healthy, but it can also prevent transmission of HIV to others. People with an undetectable viral load have no risk of transmitting HIV to their partners via sex.
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Is Hiv Testing Confidential
HIV testing can be confidential or anonymous.
Confidential testing means that your HIV test results will include your name and other identifying information, and the results will be included in your medical record. HIV-positive test results will be reported to local or state health departments to be counted in statistical reports. Health departments remove all personal information from HIV test results before sharing the information with CDC. CDC uses this information for reporting purposes and does not share this information with any other organizations, including insurance companies.
Anonymous testing means you do not have to give your name when you take an HIV test. When you take the test, you receive a number. To get your HIV test results, you give the number instead of your name.
Stage : Asymptomatic Stage
Aside from swollenglands, a person is largely symptomless at this stage and often starts to feelbetter. On average, this asymptomatic stage lasts for around ten years, but canlast up to 15 years. HIV antibodies can now be found in the blood and thereforean HIV test will give a positive result.
HIV is active withinthe lymph nodes at this time, infecting new cells and making copies of itself. Aviral load test measures the small amount of HIV which gets away from the lymphnodes. This information is very important in the treatment of HIV.
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Who Should Get Tested For Hiv
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 13 to 64 years old get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. As a general rule, people at higher risk for HIV should get tested each year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from getting tested more often, such as every 3 to 6 months.
Factors that increase the risk of HIV include:
- Having vaginal or anal sex with someone who is HIV positive or whose HIV status you dont know
- Injecting drugs and sharing needles, syringes, or other drug equipment with others
- Exchanging sex for money or drugs
- Having hepatitis or tuberculosis
- Having sex with anyone who has any of the HIV risk factors listed above
Talk to your health care provider about your risk for HIV and how often you should get tested for HIV.
A Timeline Of Hiv Symptoms
What is HIV?
HIV is a virus that compromises the immune system. Theres currently no cure for it, but there are treatments available to reduce its effects on peoples lives.
In the majority of cases, once HIV infection takes hold, the virus stays in the body for life. However, unlike what may occur with infections by other types of viruses, HIV symptoms dont suddenly appear and peak overnight.
If left untreated, the disease progresses over time through three stages, each with its own set of possible symptoms and complications some severe.
Regular antiretroviral treatment can reduce HIV to undetectable levels in the blood. At undetectable levels, the virus wont progress to the later stages of HIV infection. In addition, the virus cant be transmitted to a partner during sex.
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The 3 Types Of Hiv/aids Tests Available
1. Nucleic Acid Test
This test looks for the actual HIV virus in the blood and is usually considered very accurate during the early stages of HIV infection. However, this test is quite expensive and not routinely used unless the individual recently had high risk or possible exposure and they’re also exhibiting early symptoms of HIV infection.
2. Antigen/Antibody Test
This test looks for HIV antibodies and antigens in the blood. An antigen is a part of a virus that triggers an immune response. If you’ve been exposed to HIV, antigens will show up in your blood before HIV antibodies are made. This test can usually find HIV within two to six weeks of infection.
3. Antibody Test
Antibodies are produced by the body in reaction to the presence of a virus. An HIV antibody test measures the presence of antibodies in response to the presence of HIV. The most common HIV antibody tests are ELISA and Western Blot. These tests can now be performed on samples of oral fluid.
What Is Hiv Testing
HIV testing determines if a person is infected with HIV. The human immunodeficiency virus is the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome . AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.
HIV testing can detect HIV infection, but it cannot tell how long a person has had HIV or if the person has AIDS.
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Stages Of Hiv Infection
Effective medications have drastically transformed health outcomes for those of us living with HIV.
We can now expect a lifespan that approaches that of the general population. Individuals can be diagnosed with HIV along different stages of HIV infection.
For example, these days it is common for folks to be diagnosed HIV-positive within weeks of infection, but also similarly common for folks to be diagnosed at very late stages, when the risk of serious infections or death can be very high. Of course a number of institutional, personal, and social factors can contribute to these varied outcomes. People can also progress through the various stages of HIV infection at different rates, with some folks so-termed rapid progressors seemingly developing to AIDS within perhaps 2 years. In contrast, some folks seem to progress very slowly or not at all, and are so-termed long-term nonprogressors or elite controllers. Here I provide a brief summary of the stages of HIV infection.
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.
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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.
The Asymptomatic Stage Of Hiv
Once seroconversion is over, most people feel fine and dont experience any symptoms. This is often called the asymptomatic stage and it can last for several years.
Though you might feel well at this stage, the virus is active, infecting new cells, making copies of itself and damaging your immune systems ability to fight illness.
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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.
Stage 2 Clinical Latency
Stage 2 is sometimes referred to as the asymptomatic HIV infection period or chronic HIV infection. During this stage of the disease, the HIV virus is still active, but it reproduces at very low levels.
A person in Stage 2 may not have any symptoms at all or feel sick in any way. If not treated, this period can last 10 plus years, though some people may progress through this stage faster than others.
For those taking medications to treat their HIV, like with antiretroviral therapy , Stage 2 can last several decades.
Pro Tip #2: It’s important to note that people in Stage 2 can transmit the HIV infection to others. However, if taking medications like ART that suppress the infection, they will likely have very low levels of the virus in their blood, which means they are less likely to transmit the virus than someone not receiving treatment.
At the end of Stage 2, the viral load begins to increase and the CD4 cell count begins to decrease. As this happens, the HIV infected person may begin having symptoms that often accompany Stage 3.
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Symptom : Night Sweats
Night sweats are repeated episodes of extreme sweating, causing bedding and any nightclothes to become soaked. Many people will get night sweats during the early stages of HIV. These can be even more common later in infection and arent related to exercise or the temperature of the room.Get tested if symptoms of HIV appear
With such a vast array of symptoms, HIV testing is vital to ensure a proper diagnosis. If you think youve been exposed to HIV, or have an active sex life with casual sex partners, regardless of whether you are showing symptoms of HIV or not, its important to get tested as soon as possible.
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 : Symptomatic Hiv Disease
Eventually the HIV infection weakens the immune system to the point that it progresses to the HIV disease. Infected people may begin to experience mild symptoms, even though their CD4 cell count is not yet low enough to warrant an AIDS diagnosis. The time it takes for the infection to become a disease differs for each person, but it generally ranges from five to seven years. Characteristic symptoms may include:
- Skin disorders
- Mouth ulcers
- Fungal skin and nail infections
Symptoms usually begin to show after the virus has begun to seriously damage the immune system. To avoid this damage, it is best to start antiretroviral therapy as early as possible.
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Hiv/aids Testing And Diagnosis
The only way to know for sure if someone has the HIV infection or AIDS is to get tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV as part of their routine healthcare checkups.
Knowing your HIV status provides you with important information that will help you take the necessary steps to keep you and your partner healthy moving forward.
If an individual tests positive for HIV infection, medications and treatment can result in remaining healthy for many more years and greatly reduce the chance of transmitting the disease to their sex partner. And if an individual tests negative, there are more prevention tools available today that can help prevent HIV infection than ever before and keep that person from contracting the disease.
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What Is A Latent Hiv Reservoir
HIV attacks immune system cells in the body and uses the cells own machinery to make copies of itself. However, some HIV-infected immune cells go into a resting or latent state. While in this resting state, the infected cells do not produce new virus. HIV can hide inside these cells for years, forming a latent HIV reservoir but, at any time, cells in the latent reservoir can become active again and start making more virus.
To find out more about how HIV attacks cells, read the HIV Life Cycle fact sheet from HIVinfo.