HIV and Its Early Symptoms

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is one of the contagious diseases that doesn’t have any cure yet. Without any treatment, it can severely weaken a person’s immune system and could be fatal.

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HIV patients do not always show symptoms during the early stages.

When a person suffers from early symptoms of HIV, they may resemble a cold or flu. The only way to know if the person is suffering from flu or not is by testing.

Early symptoms of HIV

According to the official website (HIV.gov), the early symptoms of HIV appear two to four weeks after contracting the virus in about two-thirds of people.

It means that a significant number of people with HIV will have no symptoms. The early symptoms of HIV include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Cold sweats, especially at night
  • Rash
  • Chills
  • Fever

With the progress in condition, people with HIV may develop a weakened immune system. Infections that were once minor like tooth cavity or abscess or canker sores in the mouth may cause significant pain. It may also become difficult for people with HIV to recover from these infections.

A person may notice that they have more frequent minor infections like yeast or cold infections. They may also notice that they are sick more often than before or for a longer duration. Some people may also get very ill from infections that would normally not be life-threatening.

Early symptoms of HIV in females and males

Early HIV symptoms are subtle, if they appear at all, a person may not notice them. For this reason, it may be difficult to notice the difference in symptoms between females and males. According to HIV.gov, HIV infections decreased among males but remained stable among females. In 2019, the rate for males (21.0) was 5 times the rate for females (4.5).

Later symptoms

As HIV progresses, it will continue to weaken the immune system. By the time, it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The symptoms of AIDS a person might experience include the following:

  • Pneumonia
  • Physical changes including weight loss
  • Chronic illness including diarrhea, night sweats, chills, and fever
  • Opportunistic infections
  • Changes in mental health

Diagnosis

A specific test using saliva or blood can detect HIV. The test type and how soon after exposure a person tests affect the accuracy of the results.

Antibody tests

Antibody tests can give a positive result 23-90 days after exposure to the virus.

Antigen tests

Scientists can perform antibody or antigen tests on blood from a vein 18-45 days after a person comes in contact with the virus.

Nucleic acid tests

Nucleic acid tests are the blood tests that doctors take from a patient’s vein.

Regular tests

Few specific factors may mean a person must get an HIV test at least every year, as per the CDC. the factors include:

  • If a person has been diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB)
  • If a person has received a diagnosis of another sexually transmitted disease
  • If a person has injected and shared drug injection equipment, such as syringes and needles with others
  • If a person has had more than one sex partner since the last HIV test
  • If a person has a sexual partner with HIV

Treatment

There’s no cure for HIV. However, treatment can:

  • Prevent many HIV complications
  • Reduce viral load
  • Slow down disease’s progression

With the treatment, many people with HIV can live a long and healthy life. For most benefits, it is crucial to get treatment as early as possible.

Conclusion

People with HIV may live long lives with antiretroviral treatment. According to a 2020 paper, young people who take HIV medications have a similar life expectancy compared to those without HIV. However, they have fewer years of good health.

Potential HIV diagnosis could be frightening but effective treatments are available to slow down its effects. The only way to know for sure is to seek testing and repeat the test a few weeks later. Prompt testing can help to get the quality treatment that will help a person live a healthy life.

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