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The purpose of this website is to provide helpful information on the symptoms of HIV and AIDS.

Do you think you are infected with HIV? Symptoms may or may not occur during the early phase of HIV infection. Some people develop symptoms several months after exposure; others remain asymptomatic for ten years or more. HIV behaves differently in different people. The symptoms that a person infected with HIV will experience depend on how that person's immune system reacts to the virus.These facts make a HIV test so important.

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HIV Symptoms

For anyone who has been exposed to a person with HIV or AIDS and is concerned they may have contracted either virus, it is strongly recommended that you not rely solely on the symptoms to determine your status. Because the same symptoms that appear after HIV infection can be associated with other diseases, it is vitally important you see your doctor for an HIV test. That is the only way to get accurate diagnosis and begin the appropriate treatment program.

Seeking an accurate diagnosis from your physician is recommended as soon as you are aware you have been exposed to HIV because research has indicated on 20% of people infected feel symptoms serious enough to consult their doctor in the first weeks after exposure. Seeing your physician will also determine if your symptoms are associated with HIV or if they have progressed to AIDS. Early treatment can lengthen the life span of someone newly infected as well as improve their quality of life.

It is also important to distinguish between HIV and AIDS. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) effects the cells of the immune system and either destroys or stops them from functioning properly while AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) refers to someone who's immune system has been severely weakened, leading to numerous secondary infections.

Symptoms of HIV will vary from person to person and will also depend on the stage of the disease. A person does not experience any change in their health immediately after being infected. The first indication of infection can include brief flu like symptoms, a rash or swollen glands and are often dismissed as minor. It is also important to note, you can pass on HIV after infection and before diagnosis.

There are four different stages of HIV that include different and worsening symptoms. They are listed below in chronological order.
HIV AIDS Symptoms
1.) Acute HIV

Several weeks after exposure to the HIV virus, some people experience an illness called acute HIV syndrome. Indicators of this first phase of infection include:
  • fever
  • headache
  • pain in limbs
  • sore throat
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea
  • skin rash
  • nausea
  • muscle aches
These are early symptoms and will occur within the first few weeks after being infected with the virus. They are often mistaken for flu symptoms and will usually resolve without treatment within a month and the diagnosis of HIV is often missed.

During this early stage, the immune system begins to produce HIV antibodies and cytotoxic lymphocytes in response to the HIV in the peripheral blood.

It is important to note an HIV test may not produce an accurate positive diagnosis because the antibodies to the virus have not had time to develop enough within the infected person's immune system to be detected. It can take up to three months for those antibodies to be detected so it is important for an HIV test to be repeated three months after the suspected infection.


2.) Asymptomatic HIV

The second stage of the disease is known as Asymptomatic HIV. That is because, as long as the patient is taking the prescribed medication, they are free from symptoms. The level of HIV also drops to low levels. It is important for the patient to realize that while those symptoms are no longer present, the virus is still reproducing and destroying the patient's immune cells and continuation of the medication is necessary for maximizing the patient's quality of life and life span. This stage lasts an average of 8 - 10 years.


3.) Symptomatic HIV

At this point of infection, the immune system is severly damaged by HIV. There are several theories as to why this happens such as:

The lymph nodes and tissues are damaged due to years of activity. HIV has mutated and become stronger and more varied leading to more cell destruction and the body is unable to keep up with replacing T helper cells that are lost.

Symptoms of this third stage include:
  • long-lasting swollen lymph nodes
  • permanent night sweats
  • long-lasting diarrhea
  • persistent fever
  • severe weight loss
  • fungal diseases
  • dermatitis
  • dry cough
  • breathlessness
  • chronic fatigue
  • persistent headaches
This stage of the disease lasts about 1 to 3 years and leaves the patient very susceptible to other serious infections.


4.) Progression from HIV to AIDS

The last stage is the progression from HIV to AIDS where opportunistic infections like pneumonia, neurological diseases or certain types of cancer develop.

A diagnosis of AIDS is given when a patient with HIV develops one or more of a certain number of opportunistic infections or cancers.

Currently, there is no cure for AIDS, however, there are numerous treatments available to help prolong the life span and quality of life of patients with HIV and AIDS. The best way to protect yourself is by taking the preventative measures recommended by physicians to keep from being exposed to HIV or AIDS.

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