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HIV Symptoms

Can you spot the most common HIV symptoms?
We certainly hope so. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s on the rise. Over one million Americans are currently living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is the virus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). To make matters worse, this sexually transmitted infection can affect anyone, regardless of race, gender, age, or sexual orientation.

Today we’ll take a look at the most common HIV symptoms and how you can stay safe and healthy.

Recognizing HIV Symptoms

Typically, an HIV infection affects both men and women in three phases.

    • Acute illness: It is possible that this initial phase will not occur. If it does, it will usually begin soon after you are exposed to the infection.
    • Asymptomatic period: This second phase takes much longer to pass. In fact, it can potentially take ten years or more. During this asymptomatic period, the virus is still active inside your body. Unfortunately, it is likely that you won’t notice any visible HIV symptoms during this time.
  • Advanced infection: In this late phase of infection, you will experience a highly weakened immune system. During this phase, you will become significantly more susceptible to a number of other illnesses.
Acute Illness

Within two-to-four weeks of initial infection, your first HIV symptoms become visible.

During this phase, the most common HIV symptoms may include:

    •        body rash
    •        fever
    •        sore throat
    •        severe headaches
    •        fatigue
    •        swollen lymph nodes
    •        ulcers in the mouth or on the genitals
    •        muscle aches and joint pain
    •        nausea and vomiting
  •        night sweats

Many of these signs bear a resemblance to the flu. As you may have guessed, this often leads to many people not realizing they are infected with HIV. To make matters worse, for many people these HIV symptoms are not even present. Many people with the virus may not experience any symptoms for years.

Asymptomatic Period

If and when the “Acute Illness” stage ends, the initial HIV symptoms will seem to vanish. You may go for years without seeing another symptom. Unfortunately, “no news” does not mean “good news.”

During this seemingly dormant stage, the virus is replicating inside your body. You may not feel sick, but HIV is still working to damage your immune system.

Advanced Infection

During the last stage of the infection, your immune system is severely weakened. Standard “run of the mill” illnesses can become life threatening.

Thanks to this more vulnerable state, you may notice that you frequently get colds, flus, and fungal infections. You’ll have a harder time fighting them off, too.

During this stage, you might experience the following AIDS symptoms:

    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • diarrhea
    • fatigue
    • rapid weight loss
    • shortness of breath
    • fever
    • chills
    • night sweats
    • rashes, sores, or lesions
    • swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpits, groin, or neck
  • memory loss, confusion, or neurological disorders
HIV Symptoms that Women Need to Know

Men and women usually experience HIV in a similar way. However, there are a few HIV symptoms that specifically affect women.

These may include:

    • Increased frequency of vaginal yeast infections
    • Abnormal menstrual cycles
  • An increased risk of cervical cancer

If you are pregnant, the virus can be transmitted from a mother to her child. This often happens during childbirth or while breastfeeding. Fortunately, it is possible to lower the risk of transmission from mother to child through treatment. Of course this requires you to have gotten tested in the first place.

Preventative Measures: PrEP

While the medical community hasn’t yet figured out how to cure HIV, it has recently made significant advances. First, beginning treatment early can slow the progression of the disease and significantly improve your quality of life. You will be able to live a near-normal life as long as you begin treatment before your immune systems are too severely damaged.

Beyond treatment, there is also a relatively new medication called PrEP. This medication is a once-a-day pill that people can take to prevent the HIV virus from being able to establish a permanent infection in your body. Often, partners of people who are HIV positive take this medication as a way to prevent contracting the infection.  

When taken on a daily basis, PrEP can reduce the risk of an infection by up to 92%. If you’d like to learn more, check out our detailed guide for PrEP and HIV prevention.

Protecting Yourself from HIV Infection

As you can see, HIV symptoms in men and women can be tough to recognize. This deceptive nature of HIV symptoms is why regular testing is so critical.

Using a condom during any sex act can seriously reduce the possibility of contracting or spreading STDs and HIV, but isn’t foolproof.  Being tested is the only way to know whether or not you have HIV. The CDC recommends that all adults, from ages 18 to 65, should be routinely screened for the virus. It isn’t enough to get tested a single time. You must remain vigilant about keeping your body safe.

Testing is quick and easy. You can order an at-home HIV testing package from myLAB Box. These tests offer lab-certified results that can be checked discreetly online. Early treatment can help both men and women with HIV to reduce their risk of accidentally passing the virus to their partners.

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