HIV is one of the most dreaded diseases the human population has ever faced. It has claimed a countless number of lives and continue to do so as the said illness currently does not have any confirmed cure or medicine that can directly alleviate or eliminate the virus itself. In 2017, the reported number of HIV cases were estimated to be around 36.9 million globally. There is a ray hope however, as the total number of New HIV infections have been reduced to almost 47% since the virus’ peak in 2004. It is of utmost importance then that people are made aware of the early symptoms of HIV.
What is HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)?
HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus that is spread through bodily fluids. This virus will typically attack the T Cells of the Human Body and eventually, the body will no longer have enough of these cells to fight or ward off infections. T Cells are actually specialized cells that help the body’s immune system and overall infection-fighting capability. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus is what actually leads to AIDS or the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome which is the most severe stage of HIV. Currently, there are no known treatment for HIV or AIDS and people who are infected with the virus will have it in them for life.
What are the Early Symptoms of HIV?
The symptoms of HIV usually vary depending on the stage of the virus. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus will usually show symptoms within one (1) to two (2) months upon infection but may show up as early as two (2) weeks. The early symptoms of HIV usually have similarities with other illnesses and so the best way to be sure is to have an HIV test. Below are some of the more commonly observed early symptoms and signs that one might be infected with HIV:
Symptom Number 1: Fever
This is one of the very first symptoms of HIV and is the body’s natural reaction when fighting off an infection. It will usually be accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes. At this early stage, the virus is creeping into the immune system through the blood and will eventually trigger an inflammatory response from the body.
Symptom Number 2: Fatigue and Headache
The initial response of the body against the invading Human Immunodeficiency Virus will result in the patient feeling mostly tired and lethargic. Regular activities can quickly take a toll on an HIV infected individual and the onset of fatigue and headache can be an early and even later symptom of this dreaded disease.
Symptom Number 3: Swollen Lymph Nodes, Joint Pain and Aching Muscles
The lymph nodes are the bodies main defense against infection as it helps the body remove bacteria and viruses. They will naturally get inflamed and swollen during their bouts against infections and with HIV, the lymph nodes will be working double time, making your armpits, joints, groin, and neck sore as these are where our lymph nodes are located.
Symptom Number 4: Skin rash
Skin rash brought about by HIV can be similar to boils and can occur at the beginning or later on in the course of the HIV infection
Symptom Number 5: Nausea, Vomiting, and Diarrhea
These three (3) come hand in hand when experiencing digestive issues cause by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Similar to the other symptoms on this list, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can appear in the early or late stages of an HIV infection.
Symptom Number 6: Sore Throat and Dry Cough
Sore throat and dry cough would usually go away within weeks or months especially with antibiotics and other over the counter medicines. HIV infected patients, however, will have these two symptoms that will not resolve on their own and this may be an indicator of a very sick patient.
Symptom Number 7: Night Sweats
A lot of HIV patients will get night sweats which are not related to room temperatures or any heavy physical activity. Night sweats can be a symptom of HIV infection both at the early and later stages of the illness.
The Stages of HIV Infection
The seven (7) symptoms of HIV were discussed above but what about the stages of HIV infection? There are actually three (3) stages identified for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection. The first stage is called the primary or acute HIV infection and would have the seven early symptoms enumerated earlier. This stage can also be called the acute retroviral syndrome and infected patients may simply get flu-like symptoms that can be hard to distinguish from the common cold, flu or stomach and gut issues.
The next stage in the HIV infection would be the clinical latency stage where the virus becomes more dormant than active. At this stage, infected patients usually do not experience any symptoms of the virus and can have up to ten (10) years of having seemingly normal and HIV free life. The third last stage of the HIV infection, also called AIDS, will have the patient’s immune system already severely damaged and extremely vulnerable to infections.
What is the next step if you suspect an HIV infection?
The best recourse if one suspects HIV infection is to immediately get tested. While HIV may have no known cure at the moment, the earlier the virus is detected the better. HIV can be managed and even controlled if detected early. It is also important to protect the partners of HIV patients who are still testing negative for HIV.
The risk of transmitting and infecting other people with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus can be greatly reduced if testing is done on a suspected HIV infection and measures are taken to ensure that the virus does not spread or gets transmitted. More importantly, the early detection of the HIV infection in a patient’s body can help a medical professional prevent the onset of AIDs or HIV stage three (3) where the immune system of the body is already badly damaged and infections can easily invade the patient’s body.