Wednesday , March 22 2023
Common Signs and Symptoms of HIV Infection

Common Signs and Symptoms of HIV Infection

Symptoms of HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a viral infection spread through body fluids during sexual intercourse. It is also spread through direct contact with HIV-infected blood, typically by exchanging single-use needles with an infected person. However, HIV is not spread through saliva or human touch. 

HIV infection compromises the individual’s immunity, making them sensitive to various other diseases. The immune system loses its ability to fight external pathogens and eventually succumbs to death. However, newer medication is now available that can kill and bring the viral load of the infection to an extremely low level in the bloodstream. This means that it will not be detected on a standard HIV test. This development in medical research makes it possible to lead a long, safe, and normal life despite having HIV.

If you think you have come into contact with HIV or are at risk of developing HIV infection, immediately get medical attention and undergo a detection test. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs can effectively reduce your chances of infection from HIV. Most times, understanding the Symptoms of HIV can be a preventative measure to getting early treatment. 

Highlights of HIV –

  • HIV is transmitted through sexual intercourse, which includes vaginal and anal intercourse, through blood contact, and via breast milk from a mother to her child. 
  • HIV infection severely weakens the immune system and deteriorates the patient’s health.
  • HIV can be treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART), which can bring the viral load to an undetectable level. 
  • If HIV infection isn’t treated, the viral load can increase and advance to the stage of AIDS, a terminal disease.

What are the common Symptoms of HIV with different stages?

symptoms of hiv infection

The symptoms of HIV infection begin as any regular viral infection. Therefore, if you feel you may have come into contact with HIV, you must immediately get yourself tested. However, most of the time, if you are unaware of exposure to the virus, knowing and being aware of these symptoms will help you analyze the situation better. 

Signs of HIV infection occur in three stages, depending on the viral load in the bloodstream that causes the symptoms. The last stage of the infection is when HIV advances to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which is a late-stage HIV infection, and detection of HIV infection at this last stage is in vain since there is no treatment for AIDS. 

Also, Read Viral Fever Symptoms, Treatments, Diagnosis, and Prevention.

The stages of HIV progression are as follows:

1. Primary Infection –

This period is when the virus begins to multiply and spread through every part of the body, affecting the head, stomach, sinuses, muscles, and blood. This phase lasts roughly 2-4 weeks before the virus progresses and the viral load increases. In the infection stage, you may develop flu-like signs such as,

  • Swollen lymph nodes- your lymphocytes significantly multiply and try to fight the foreign virus in the body. Lymphocytes reside in the lymph nodes; hence, these nodes swell up around the neck, underarms, and chest. 
  • Fever with chills- the body temperature rises in response to the immune system fighting the virus.
  • Headache/body ache- the immune system becomes weak, and even a slight change in the temperature can cause pain in the body. 
  • Gradual weight loss- the individual’s health drastically deteriorates and becomes more susceptible to other infections. Also, it leads to Diarrhea.
  • Rashes and itching- virus infection can also cause skin rashes. 
  • Throat infection and sore throat- flu-like symptoms commonly appear for weeks.

Also Read: Bacterial Infection Mouth: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

2. Clinical Latency –

In this phase of the infection, 

  • the virus multiplication becomes latent, and they move into hiding. 
  • The symptoms such as cold and flu disappear for a while and you do not feel sick.
  • If you lose weight without reason and the fever and other symptoms continue, you must immediately get a test done. 

This phase in HIV infection is unique because the infection remains stagnant. People with HIV infection in this stage can live up to 15 years without moving to the next stage of disease progression. Be aware that the virus is still multiplying in the background.

This phase is a prolonged period due to ART. Antiretroviral medication safely brings the viral load below the detectable level.

  • If the viral load is below the detectable level, the virus is not risky to pass to your sexual partner.
  • If the viral load is above the detectable level, there is a significant risk of infecting your sexual partner. 

Also Read: Your Hands Reveal These 6 Signs of Bad Health: Watch Closely!

3. Symptomatic HIV infection –

If HIV is left to progress without ART treatment, eventually (can be months or years, depending on the patient’s immunity and health condition), HIV weakens the human body and gives rise to several comorbidities. The disease progresses to show the following Symptoms of HIV:

  • Rapid and sudden weight loss
  • Constant fever
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Swelling in the underarms, the neck, and the groin
  • Continues Diarrhea that can last for weeks, striping you of all essential nutrients
  • Getting terrible fungal and bacterial infections
  • Oral yeast infection that lines the mouth is known as Thrush
  • Pneumonia 
  • Shingles 

Also Read: How to Identify Pneumonia in Newborns

Low platelet count and weak immunity can also result in:

  • Bruising more than usual
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bleeding from the nose, the anus, or the vagina

4. Progression to AIDS

Symptoms of HIV/AIDS

Symptomatic HIV infection can last around 9-10 years and eventually progresses to the last stage of HIV infection, called AIDS. The length of this phase is practically dependent on the self-care and therapeutic management of your health. This is a terminal phase, and death usually results from all the acquired comorbid conditions. Symptoms of this stage include: 

  • Constantly swollen underarms, neck
  • Complete weakness
  • Persistent white spots on the tongue or the mouth, along with lesions.
  • With complete weight loss, the body may reduce to a mere skeleton
  • Memory loss
  • Depression and mental health issues

Think you were exposed to HIV?

  • If you think you have been exposed to HIV, get a test done. 
  • If the test is positive, begin ART therapy.
  • If the test is negative, take PrEP meditation to reduce the chances of getting the infection.
  • If you are pregnant and test HIV positive, you may take ART throughout your pregnancy. Giving the child ART medication a few weeks after birth can reduce the chances of the child getting infected by less than 1%. 


How is HIV spread?

HIV is spread in three ways. First, through body fluids (vaginal fluids, semen) during sexual intercourse. Second through blood contact by using needles, blades, and syringes from an infected person, and third via breast milk from a mother to her child. HIV is not spread through respiratory droplets or via saliva. 

Can HIV be treated?

There is no complete treatment for HIV, but the doctor can control or manage the disease. People infected with HIV must learn to live with the infection, which is made easy by taking ART medication that includes drugs such as Abacavir, Emtricitabine, and Zidovudine. Taking regular doses of antiviral medication can effectively bring the viral load below detectable levels in the blood and prevent exposure to your sexual partner. 

Is HIV a serious infection?

HIV infection deteriorates the immune system and makes you susceptible to various other deadly infections and disease conditions. If HIV infection is left untreated, it can advance to a more severe terminal disease condition known as AIDS.

What are the main symptoms of HIV?

HIV symptoms begin as any regular viral infection. The symptoms include regular fever, chills, tremors, and swelling in the lymph nodes. This is the stage where your immunity is trying to fight the infection, and the WBC count in the blood will be the highest. 

Conclusion – 

HIV infection is not life-threatening, but not treating it can be. Several antiretroviral drugs are available to control the infection. Early detection of the virus can immensely help in controlling the spread of the infection to the rest of the body. Patients infected with HIV can lead a long and normal life with the help of self-care and management therapies such as yoga, meditation, and self-love. HIV is not the end of the world; limiting your mind is. 

Also Read: Sexually active? You need to know about this Silent Virus – HPV