Some people who are infected with HIV are asymptomatic at first. Most people experience symptoms in the first month or two after becoming infected. That’s because your immune system is reacting to the virus as it rapidly reproduces.
This early stage is known as the acute stage. Symptoms are similar to those of the flu and may linger anywhere from a few days to several weeks. These include:
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- swollen lymph glands
- general aches and pains
During the first few months of infection, an HIV test may show a false-negative result. This is because it takes time for the immune system to build up enough antibodies to be seen in a blood test. But the virus is active and highly contagious during this time.
The clinical latent infection, or chronic stage of HIV, can last from a few years to a few decades. During this time the virus will still be reproducing, but at lower levels. Some people have few, if any, symptoms. Others may have many signs and symptoms. Without antiretroviral therapy, you’re likely to pass through this phase faster.
As the disease progresses, other symptoms may include:
- swollen lymph nodes
- recurrent fevers
- aches and pains
- nausea, vomiting
- weight loss
- skin rashes
- oral yeast infections or other infections
Symptoms may come and go or spread rapidly. Even if you have no symptoms, you can still transmit the virus to others.
What are the symptoms of AIDS?
With the help of antiretroviral therapy, chronic HIV can last several decades. Without treatment, HIV can be expected to progress to AIDS sooner. By that time, the immune system is quite damaged and experiences a hard time fighting off infection and disease.
Symptoms of AIDS can include:
- recurrent fever
- chronic swollen lymph glands, especially of the armpits, neck, and groin
- chronic fatigue
- night sweats
- dark splotches under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
- sores, spots, or lesions of the mouth and tongue, genitals, or anus
- bumps, lesions, or rashes of the skin
- recurrent or chronic diarrhea
- rapid weight loss
- neurologic problems such as difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and confusion
- anxiety and depression
Because you have a weakened immune system, you’re at increased risk of pneumonia and other opportunistic infections. Other potential complications of AIDS are:
- cytomegalovirus (CMV), a type of herpes virus
- cryptococcal meningitis
- toxoplasmosis, and infection caused by a parasite
- cryptosporidiosis, an infection caused by an intestinal parasite
- cancer, including Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) and lymphoma
- kidney disease
Antiviral medications can assist in the control of the virus. Treatment for other infections and complications of AIDS must be tailored to your individual needs.