In the decades after it first appeared, HIV/AIDS has been tamed with new, effective treatments and better public awareness. But the virus still presents a very real threat, as there’s still no cure for HIV infection. What you can do to protect yourself and others, is learn about the symptoms HIV can cause and ways to prevent the virus from spreading.
Early symptoms of HIV infection (acute retroviral syndrome)
The virus doesn’t often cause early symptoms. But in many cases, people get flu-like sensations a few weeks after becoming infected. These include the following:
- mild fever;
- a headache;
- swollen lymph nodes;
- a sore throat;
- feeling tired;
- muscle aches;
- skin rash that doesn’t itch, usually seen on the torso;
The same symptoms can be caused by many other, less serious viral infections, which is why they are often overlooked. They usually clear up within a week or two.
Chronic HIV infection
After the early stage, HIV settles in. During this period, which may last 10 years or longer, there may be no symptoms. That’s when the virus gradually ruins the immune system by killing CD4 T-cells, making you less able to fight off infections.
Fortunately, treatments are available to prevent HIV infection from progressing into AIDS.
The final stage: AIDS
AIDS develops if HIV infection hasn’t been treated. During this stage, serious symptoms start to appear. These include the following:
- persistent fatigue;
- frequent infections;
- enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and groin;
- lasting, unexplained fever;
- persistent cough;
- weight loss;
- night sweats;
- brain fog;
- severe diarrhea;
- yeast infections affecting the mouth, throat, or vagina;
- easy bruising.
People with AIDS also are at an increased risk of certain cancers, including Kaposi sarcoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
How to lower your risk of getting infected with HIV
To reduce your risk of HIV infection, the following can help:
- not using injectable illicit drugs;
- having sex with only one partner who tested negative for HIV and who doesn’t have other sexual partners;
- using condoms during sex with a new partner if you aren’t sure about his or her HIV status;
- getting tattoos or piercings only at professional shops that use sterile equipment.
This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.