Treatment of the HIV virus has come a long way over the last several decades. While a cure for HIV has proven elusive, thanks to the tireless work of medical researchers, millions of HIV patients across the globe now have access to life-changing medications that make it possible for them to live long, healthy lives.
Testing remains the most effective way to diagnose HIV. If untreated, HIV can advance to the stage where it is considered AIDS. That’s a dangerous progression that, according to Medicine.net, can prove fatal in as little as three years, which only underscores the importance of recognizing HIV symptoms.
Does HIV produce early symptoms?
It’s a misconception that HIV, in its early stages, does not produce any symptoms. Avert.org, which is devoted to providing global information and education on HIV and AIDS, notes that symptoms vary in severity and type from person-to-person. Some people may not experience any symptoms, but HIV.gov, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, notes that about two-thirds of people will have a flu-like illness during stage 1 of HIV infection, which is often referred to as the acute HIV infection stage.
What are some early symptoms of HIV infection?
Symptoms during the acute HIV infection stage are flu-like. In fact, many people may mistake their symptoms for the flu, especially since they can last just a few days. However, people who are members of groups considered to be at high risk for HIV infection, including gay and bisexual men and injection drug users, should report flu-like symptoms to their physicians immediately and submit to HIV testing. Even people who are not in high-risk groups should seek HIV testing if they experience any of the following symptoms and are concerned about possible exposure to the HIV virus.
· Night sweats
· Muscle aches
· Sore throat
· Swollen lymph nodes
· Mouth ulcers
How does HIV progress after the acute infection stage?
After the acute infection stage, HIV moves on to the chronic HIV infection stage. HIV.gov notes that, at this point, the virus is still multiplying but at very low levels. Because of that, infected persons may not feel sick or experience any symptoms during this stage, which can last for well over a decade.
If HIV goes undetected or untreated, it will eventually advance to stage 3, the final stage of HIV infection during which people are diagnosed with AIDS. This stage is often preventable if HIV is detected early and people take their HIV medications. Once a person has HIV, they have it for life, but many people never develop AIDS so long as they take their medications.
Since HIV will not always produce symptoms, or may only produce symptoms that can be easily mistaken for more common, less deadly ailments like the flu, it’s important for people in high-risk groups or those who engage in risky behaviors, like having unprotected sex, speak with their physicians about HIV testing.
More information about HIV, including who is most at risk for the virus, is available at www.HIV.gov.