Symptoms of HIV could be mistaken because it differs from one person to another. Before we dive deep into various indicators of this infection, here are some of the facts you need to know about HIV according to UNAID:
- There are about 36.9 million people worldwide in 2017 living with HIV infection.
- About 1.8 million children under age 15 and younger were infected with HIV in 2017. Most of these kids reside in sub-Sahara Africa and were infected by their HIV-positive mother during childbirth, breastfeeding or pregnancy.
- About 1.8 million people worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2017. This equates to about 5,000 new infections daily.
- 940,000 people worldwide died from AID related death in 2017.
- Nigeria has the second-highest rate of HIV epidemic in the world after Swaziland.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can also be through contact with infected blood or during pregnancy from mother to child. Anyone can get an HIV infection. The virus in HIV specifically inhibits the CD4 cells (T cells) that wards off infections. HIV infection based on current research does not have a cure; however, some medications can slow down the rate of progress of the virus. HIV infection diminishes the number of CD4 cells in your body. This would put you at risk of other infections. Over time, if untreated, your body’s immune system gets weaker and wouldn’t be able to defend itself from diseases or infections or diseases.
Symptoms and Stages of HIV Infection
The symptoms of HIV infection differ depending on the person and the stage of the infection. HIV infection if untreated progressively weakens your immune body system and advances from one stage to the other. The three stages of HIV infection include:
- Acute HIV Infection
- Chronic HIV Infection
- Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection
This is also known as acute retroviral syndrome or primary HIV infection. It’s the preliminary stage of HIV, and it persists until the body has formed antibodies against the virus infection. These, in most cases start manifesting about 2 to 4 weeks after infection.
During this early stage, the virus multiplies at a fast rate. In contrast to other viruses that your body’s immune system can fight off HIV can’t be eradicated by your immune system. In the process of time, the virus attacks and destroys your immune cells. This leaves your immune system powerless to wade off other infections and diseases. This, if not treated, can progress to the second stage which is the Chronic HIV stage.
Due to the contagious nature of acute HIV, most people with acute HIV infection don’t know they have contracted the virus. This is as a result of the symptoms in this stage, which are similar to other illnesses such as flu. Acute HIV infection stage is characterized most often by flu-like symptoms
Flu-like symptoms generally experienced at this stage can include
- Night sweats
- Chronic diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Skin and mouth problems
- Consistent infections
- Constant cough
These symptoms may last for days or weeks. But not everyone that is infected has these symptoms.
Having these symptoms does not mean you have HIV infections; there are other diseases with these symptoms. However, you should get tested for HIV if you suspect you have an HIV infection.
Stage 2: Chronic HIV Infection
The second stage is also known as the clinical latency stage or asymptomatic HIV infection stage. During this second stage, the virus keeps multiplying in your body, but at a low rate. It is possible for a person with the virus not to experience any HIV symptoms for close to 15 years. However, some factors such as, general health, age, and background can influence this. If left untreated, the immune system gets more impaired, and the HIV infection progresses to AIDS.
You can transmit the infection to others, even though you don’t have the symptoms. You can prevent transmission to others by keeping your viral load level detectable.
Stage 3: Symptomatic HIV infection
This is the last and final stage of HIV infection. By this time, if your infection remains untreated, your body immune system would have been weakened by the virus, and the HIV infection would have progressed to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
Some symptoms of AIDS can include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Persistent fever or profuse night sweats
- Unexplained and extreme fatigue.
- Protracted swelling of the lymph glands in the neck, armpits, or groin.
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
- Sores of the genitals, mouth, or anus.
- Depression, memory loss, and other neurologic disorders
The only way to know if you have an HIV infection is by getting tested and not by any symptoms. Each of these symptoms can represent other illnesses apart from an HIV infection.