This Tuesday was National HIV Testing Day; so let’s explore the major symptoms of HIV in women.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one million Americans are living with HIV. During 2015, women made up roughly 19% of all HIV diagnoses within the United States.
As medical science improves, we are still fighting to find a cure for the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, damaging your ability to stave off infections. The infection is passed via contact with infected bodily fluids, including blood, semen, and vaginal fluids.
According to the CDC, 87% of HIV diagnoses in women were attributed to heterosexual sex. The other 13% were due to intravenous drug use.
Unfortunately, HIV is not curable. Once you are infected, it’s for life.
Symptoms of HIV in Women
- Acute illness: This may or may not occur. If it does, it will usually occur relatively soon after exposure to the infection.
- Asymptomatic period: This is a significantly longer phase. Like the name says, HIV carriers will not experience any symptoms. This period of time can last ten years or more.
- Advanced infection: In this late phase of infection, carriers will experience a highly weakened immune system. This is the stage that makes you susceptible to a number of other illnesses that are tougher for HIV to combat.
Some specific symptoms of HIV in women may include:
- Increased frequency of vaginal yeast infections
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
- Severe pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- An increased risk of cervical cancer
- A pregnant woman may potentially pass HIV on to her baby
Phase 1: Acute Illness
It may take a few weeks before the initial symptoms of HIV in women become visible. For 80% of infected people, the first symptoms usually occur within two-to-four weeks. These often resemble a typical case of the flu.
These symptoms may include:
- body rash
- sore throat
- severe headaches
- swollen lymph nodes
- ulcers in the mouth or on the genitals
- muscle aches and joint pain
- vaginal infections, such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis
- nausea and vomiting
- night sweats
Phase 2: Asymptomatic Period
After the initial phase, the symptoms will typically vanish. This begins the second phase, when HIV seems to be dormant. This is not true, though. In fact, during this time when symptoms are minimal, the virus is actually replicating and gaining strength. It is still actively weakening your immune system.
Phase 3: Advanced Infection
During this final stage of the infection, your immune system will have suffered tremendously. At this point, a standard illness like the common cold will pose a much greater threat than usual. A common infection can easily become fatal. At the very least, your weakened immune system will have a much more difficult time fighting off any form of sickness.
In its final stage, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS:
- rapid weight loss
- shortness of breath
- night sweats
- rashes, sores, or lesions
- swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpits, groin, or neck
- memory loss, confusion, or neurological disorders
How Does HIV Affect Pregnant Women?
For pregnant women, HIV can cause other complications. During the birthing process, a mother can accidentally transmit the virus to her child. This can also happen during breastfeeding.
There is no guarantee that this will happen, though. In fact, proper medical treatment can mediate this risk. But treatment can only be prescribed if a woman is aware that the virus is present.
Stay Safe. Stay Sexy.
Using a condom can seriously reduce your chances of contracting or spreading HIV. Unfortunately, this isn’t a totally foolproof plan. Accidents can still occur.
Getting 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.
Testing at home nullifies many of the excuses people have to not go through with getting tested. 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.
While there isn’t a cure for HIV, there are many treatment options. This can slow the progression of the disease. HIV can be monitored and controlled. Typically, proper medical care will greatly improve your quality of life. In fact, with proper testing and care, people living with HIV can easily live a long and happy life.