HIV symptoms

Persons infected with HIV often display no symptoms of their infection. In those who do have symptoms, they can be variable and overlap with many other common conditions. This can partly explain why the diagnosis of HIV can be missed or delayed.

Seroconversion symptoms

A few weeks after becoming infected, roughly 50% of people will come down with a flu-like illness, which may exhibit some or all of the following HIV symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy/malaise
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Rash over the body
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits and groin
  • Pains in joints or muscles
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Diarrhoea

Symptomatic HIV

Following recovery of seroconversion illness (which can last a few weeks), an infected person usually displays no or minimal signs/symptoms of HIV for many months to years.

During this time the virus is continuously breaking down the body’s natural system of defence against diseases (the immune system). After a moderate amount of immune system damage has occurred, an infected person may start to display symptoms of a poorly functioning immune system including:

  • Oral candida/thrush
  • Recurrent diarrhoeal infections
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Lethargy/malaise
  • Oral or genital ulcers
  • Recurrent or persistent warts
  • Skin problems—eg dryness, red, scaly or greasy patches on face/scalp

Late stage HIV symptoms or AIDS

AIDS is a term referred to when an individual’s immune system has suffered considerable damage and they have become susceptible to opportunistic infections. These infections are called opportunistic because they take advantage of the infected person’s low immune system—they would usually not pose a threat to people with a healthy immune system. Such infections include PCP and Toxoplasmosis.

AIDS is also diagnosed when an infected person suffers from a specific “AIDS defining illness” such as Tuberculosis and lymphoma amongst others.

AIDS is now more commonly (and more correctly) referred to as late stage or advanced HIV infection.

Late stage/AIDS symptoms are many and varied depending on the HIV-related infections/conditions a person has.

While there is no cure for the virus, modern medical treatments can be very effective in slowing down the progression of the disease and if diagnosed early enough, one can expect to live a reasonable life expectancy. If you suspect that you may have contracted the virus, you should arrange for an HIV test as soon as possible. You can also find out more about HIV transmission to learn how to minimise the risk of infection.

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