HIV Signs and Symptoms: What You Need to Know

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Although HIV is more treatable than ever before, that doesn’t mean you want to contract this serious disease.

If you have reason to believe that you have HIV, it’s critical that you take immediate action. Your medical team can run a variety of tests to diagnose this ailment or rule it out. Either way, it’s a must that you learn more about your situation.

According to HIV.gov, “Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV today. About 14 percent of them (1 in 7) don’t know it and need testing.”

In fact, there are over 38,000 new cases of HIV a year, meaning that if 1-in-7 aren’t aware they carry the disease, there are 5,200 people carrying the disease that may willingly put their partners at risk.

As you can see, a large portion of people have HIV and don’t even know it. That’s because they ignore the signs and symptoms and/or neglect to receive medical assistance.

What Are the Most Common Signs and Symptoms?

Just the same as any ailment, no two people react in the same manner to HIV. However, there are some signs and symptoms that are commonly associated with the disease.

The first thing you need to know is that symptoms typically develop within two to four weeks. Additionally, these early symptoms generally last anywhere from a couple days to a few weeks (and in some cases a bit longer).

This is the earliest stage of the infection and is often referred to as an acute HIV infection.

The most common HIV symptoms according to Everlywell during this stage include:

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  • Sore throat
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Mouth sores
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Weight loss
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Night sweats

Of course, these symptoms are associated with other medical conditions, so don’t assume that they mean you have HIV.

It’s important to understand the distinction between HIV and AIDS. While some symptoms may be similar between the two, HIV is a virus that may cause infection and lead to AIDS, though AIDS is designated as a condition.

While symptoms of HIV and AIDS may be similar, AIDS occurs when severe damage has occured to the immune system. As the immune system is compromised with a person who has contracted AIDS, there are a series of potentially significant health issues known as opportunistic infections that include tuberculosis, pneumonia, and others. These infections are difficult for a compromised immune system to fend off and put the individual at greater risk for more severe complications.

Since HIV and AIDS may have similar symptoms, it can be hard to differentiate between the two. That’s why it’s imperative to consult with your doctor. They can run the tests necessary to provide an accurate diagnosis.

What About Fever and Fatigue? Are They Always Present?

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Always is a strong word in this case, but fever—accompanied by fatigue—is often one of the initial signs of an HIV infection.

When you add these together, it’s likely that you’ll begin to feel poorly. Symptoms of HIV may show up within two weeks of the initial infection, and fevers may come and go for months to even years with the typical fever lasting up to a couple weeks.

As fever and fatigue may be symptoms of HIV or other serious illness, it’s critical that you consult with a medical professional to diagnose and begin treatment.

Questions for Your Doctor

Even if you assume that you have HIV, you’re not a doctor. Furthermore, even if you do have this disease, you can’t treat it on your own. You need an experienced medical team to guide you through the process.

It’s a good idea to ask your doctor a variety of questions if you have concerns about HIV:

  • How does HIV affect my body?
  • What are the most common short and long-term side effects of HIV?
  • What is the average life expectancy of someone my age who is diagnosed with HIV? Has this changed over the years?
  • What type of treatment is currently available for HIV? Are there any clinical trials?
  • What can I do to stay in shape during my fight with HIV?
  • If I am diagnosed with HIV, is it suggested to start taking medication right away?
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All of these questions have the potential to lead to many others. For example, when talking about medication, your doctor will share information on what’s available, how it works, and when you’ll need to take it.

While not every person infected with HIV may develop AIDS, it is crucial to get a handle on your health as soon as you have an HIV diagnosis. It’s critical that a medical diagnosis and treatment options are started as quickly as possible to prevent HIV symptoms from worsening or even developing into AIDS.

With the procedures and medical treatments available today, people with HIV have an opportunity to live a long, healthy life without developing AIDS. The key is to get tested and get treatment as soon as a positive diagnosis is received.

You can also find answers online, such as on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website. Here’s what it says about how HIV medication works:

“HIV medicines prevent HIV from multiplying (making copies of itself), which reduces the amount of HIV in the body (called the viral load). Having less HIV in the body gives the immune system a chance to recover and produce more CD4 cells. Even though there is still some HIV in the body, the immune system is strong enough to fight off infections and certain HIV-related cancers.”

The point is simple: you need to work closely with your doctor to ensure that you have answers to your questions and guidance on what comes next.

Final Word

If you’re experiencing any of the early-stage symptoms of HIV, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Once you know what’s wrong with you—HIV or not—you can assemble a medical team that can help you fight back.

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