HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is increasing becoming a common condition amid both men and women. Nearly one-fourth of the world’s population is a victim of this chronic infection. The HIV virus invades healthy immune cells called CD4 cells and damages them to the core. Over time, if HIV is left untreated, the infection turns into AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and even exposes the body to multiple threats including cancer.
In general, HIV symptoms are mild in nature and can be easily dismissed or be confused with some other condition. However, a fact remains intact – a person, even if he/she doesn’t experience noticeable symptoms of HIV, they can still pass on the virus to other individuals. This is precisely the reason why it’s important to get tested at regular intervals.
Below mentioned are some common signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS experienced by both men and women.
1. Flu-like symptoms
In its early weeks of acquiring the virus of HIV, individuals may experience flu-like symptoms. These include:
- Swollen lymph glands
- Lack of energy
While these symptoms usually disappear within a couple of weeks, in some special cases, it may take years for more chronic symptoms to appear.
2. Skin Soreness and Rashes
Skin soreness and rashes are other early signs and symptom of HIV/AIDS experienced by most people. Although these can appear due to some other underlying condition, they may also be symptoms of HIV. Sores, or lesions, that develop on the skin of the genitals, mouth and anus of people indicate HIV. Proper medication can significantly help in reducing the severity of such skin conditions.
3. Swollen glands
Lymph nodes are present all through the human body, including the back of the head, armpits. Neck and groin. As an integral part of the human immune system, lymph nodes fight infections by storing immune cells and filtering pathogens.
In case of HIV, as the virus spreads across the body, the immune system activates to its full strength. This results in the enlargement of the lymph nodes, otherwise stated as swollen glands. It’s often considered as one of the first and most prominent signs of HIV.
4. Multiple Infections
Since HIV virus attacks and kills the healthy immune cells of the body, this leaves the body prone and exposed for other infections and diseases to crop up. Some of these include pneumonia, tuberculosis, and oral or vaginal candidiasis. Bacterial and yeast infections are typically more common amid HIV-positive individuals. They affect the following areas:
- Digestive Tract
5. Fever and night sweats
HIV positive individuals are more likely to experience longer episodes of low grade fever. Temperature usually ranges between 99.8°F (37.7°C) and 100.8°F (38.2°C).
The human body heats up and develops a feverish condition when something goes wrong. But, the exact cause isn’t always obvious and known. In case of HIV, since individuals experience low grade fever that stays for long, it becomes easy to understand that he/she may be HIV positive. Sometimes, night sweats during sleep can also accompany fever.
6. Menstrual Changes
Women carrying the HIV virus can experience some prominent changes in their menstrual cycle. Their periods may range from being lighter to heavier than usual, or they may not have periods at all. However, such conditions can also happen due to many other menstrual related problems. Getting tested at the earliest is the best way to rest assured.
7. Outbreak of other Sexually TransmittedInfections
Individuals who already have HIV are also exposed to the risk of acquiring other sexually transmitted infection.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one such infection, which HIV positive individuals can acquire. It typically causes genital warts. HIV can also cause more intense and frequent outbreaks in individuals with genital herpes.
8. Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases
Pelvic inflammatory diseases or PDIs are infections that affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries of a woman. PDI in an HIV positive woman is quite difficult to treat. At the same times, its symptoms last longer than normal or reoccur more often.
9. Advanced symptoms of HIV/AIDS
As the infection of HIV progresses, its symptoms worsen too. Advanced stage signs and symptoms of HIV include:
- Severe headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss or weight
- Trouble swallowing
- Muscle aches
- Pain in the joints
- Short-term memory loss
- Mental confusion
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic cough
The most advanced stage of HIV is AIDS. In this stage, the immune system of the body gets severely compromised paving way for many other infections and diseases to develop. An individual is said to enter this state – of AIDS – when their CD4 cell count falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (mm3). At this point, a person also enters the risk of developing certain types of cancers, includingKaposi sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and cervical cancer.
Reducing the risk of HIV
As a lesser known fact, the virus of HIV spreads through bodily fluids – via shaving needles during the use of drugs or through sexual intercourse.
Smart ways to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV are as follows:
- Avoid sharing needed when injecting not drugs.
- Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). It’s a kind of medicine given to individuals exposed to the risk of HIV.
- Do not douche after a sexual intercourse as it can alter or affect the natural balance of bacteria and yeast present in the vagina,worsening an existing infection worse or increasing the risk of acquiring HIV and other known STDs
- Using condoms or other means of protection while having a sexual intercourse.
Individuals who do not have HIV and indulge into sexual activities with HIV negative partners aren’t at any risk of acquiring the HIV virus. However, using condoms is highly recommended in all cases.
As per one of the leading medical associations of the world, HIV positive people do not pose any risk of transmitting HIV, especially when their viral load is consistently measured and stands at fewer than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter (mL) of blood. Not indulging into activities that can increase one’s risk of HIV and getting tested at regular intervals is the best way to rest assured.