Top HIV Symptoms in Men
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is on the rise in the United States, so today we’ll be examining the HIV symptoms in men.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one million Americans are living with HIV, the virus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Last week, we reviewed the top HIV symptoms in women, now it’s the men’s turn. While HIV can affect anyone, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, the frequency of the infection among the male population is alarmingly high.
What is HIV?
HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, damaging the carrier’s ability to fight off infections. It can be passed from person to person through contact with infected bodily fluids. This includes blood, semen, and vaginal fluids.
A common cause of the infection tends to be unprotected sex with an infected partner. Unlike many other viruses, there is no cure for HIV. Once you contract it, you have it for life.
Fortunately, treatment is significantly more advanced nowadays than it was even a few years ago,. With proper treatment and medical care, HIV can be controlled. Those living with this infection can live a happy and healthy life.
HIV Symptoms in Men
In general, the HIV infection follows a similar pattern in men and women:
- Acute illness: This may or may not occur. If it does, it will usually occur soon after exposure to the infection.
- Asymptomatic period: This is a significantly longer phase. Like the name says, you will experience any symptoms. This period of time can last ten years or more.
- Advanced infection: In this late phase of infection, you will experience a highly weakened immune system. This is the stage that makes you susceptible to a number of other illnesses.
Phase 1: Acute Illness
During this initial phase, it may take a couple of weeks for HIV symptoms in men to become visible. For 80 percent of infected people, the first symptoms appear within two-to-four weeks and often resemble the flu.
The most common 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
- nausea and vomiting
- night sweats
Of course, that’s assuming the symptoms are even visible at all. Many people with HIV may not see symptoms for several years. The only way to truly know for sure whether or not you have HIV is to get tested.
Phase 2: Asymptomatic Period
Once the first phase ends, the initial HIV symptoms in men will completely disappear. You may go for years without seeing another symptom. That doesn’t mean you’re in the clear!
During this seemingly dormant stage, the virus is actually replicating within your body. Though you don’t feel sick, the virus is still actively weakening your immune system. This deceptive nature of HIV is a key reason why regular STD testing is imperative. It isn’t enough to get tested a single time. You must remain vigilant about keeping your body safe.
Phase 3: Advanced Infection
During the last stage of the infection, your immune system is severely damaged, making you more vulnerable to opportunistic infections. If you’ve detected the infection by this point, treatment will greatly improve your ability to live a normal lifestyle.
Otherwise, standard “run of the mill” illnesses can become life threatening. With a weakened immune system, you may notice that you frequently get colds, flus, and fungal infections and have a harder time fighting them off.
During this stage, you might experience the following AIDS symptoms:
- 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
The Best Prevention: Getting Tested
There isn’t a cure for HIV. However, getting treatment early can slow the progression of the disease and significantly improve your quality of life. A recent study found that people with HIV might have a near-normal life expectancy, as long as they begin treatment before their immune systems are too severely damaged.
The best ways to prevent HIV infection are relatively simple:
Practice Safe Sex
Using a condom during any sex act can seriously reduce the possibility of contracting or spreading HIV.
Get Tested for HIV Regularly
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, are be routinely screened for HIV.
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 also help men with HIV to reduce their risk of accidentally passing the infection to their partners.
Reviewed by Luis Ferdinand M. Papa, MD, MHA