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What Are the Symptoms of HIV and AIDS?

September 22, 2016

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Get Yourself Checked

If you have some of the symptoms we've been discussing, you need to see a health care provider. Something is making you feel unwell, and you may need treatment. Medical professionals have the training and the diagnostic tools to identify the cause of the problem.

If you are concerned that HIV could be the cause, mention it to your provider. If you've recently had a sexual encounter that could have exposed you to HIV, then HIV should be among the possibilities that are considered. Similarly, if you've recently shared injecting equipment or could have been exposed to HIV in another way, you need to be candid about this.

Your provider may want to ask you in some detail about the incident you are concerned about. This is so he or she can assess whether it really could have exposed you to HIV. It's quite common for people to become overly worried about an event and convince themselves that it's given them HIV. It's possible that you are anxious about an incident that, in fact, poses no HIV risk at all.

If that's the case, your provider will focus on potential causes of your symptoms that are more plausible and likely. For example, he or she may want to test you for Epstein-Barr virus or Group A Streptococcus bacteria. That way, you will be closer to getting the medical treatment you need.


But, if you have the symptoms mentioned above and you could have been exposed to HIV in recent weeks (for example through penetrative sex without a condom), then HIV needs to be considered. Your provider should include an HIV test among the other tests that are run.

In this situation, it's important that the most sensitive type of HIV test is used. This is a blood test that can detect both antibodies and antigen (part of the virus itself). It can detect HIV as soon as three weeks after exposure to the virus, which is sooner than antibody-only tests, tests that provide an instant result and tests that you can use at home. As the most sensitive tests are not always used by default, make sure that your provider knows you are concerned about a possible recent exposure.

If You Have No Symptoms

Up to half of people who have recently become HIV positive don't notice any symptoms. This means that the only way to know whether you have HIV is to take a test. Modern HIV tests usually provide accurate results one month after possible exposure.

Symptoms of Advanced HIV Disease

If a person with HIV has not received antiretroviral treatment, several years later his or her immune system might be so severely weakened that it cannot fight off other infections and diseases.

This stage is known as advanced HIV disease or AIDS. It is completely preventable and does not occur in people who take effective antiretroviral treatment.

The symptoms are those of the other infections and diseases -- not of HIV itself. For example, because the immune system is weak, pneumonia may take hold. In this case, the symptoms would be those seen in any other case of pneumonia: fever, trouble breathing and a cough that produces mucus.

Because so many other infections and diseases may occur when a person has advanced HIV disease, the list of potential symptoms is endless. It includes lack of energy, weight loss, yeast infections, skin rashes and short-term memory loss.

Equally, the list of other medical conditions that could cause the same symptoms is endless. A person may have pneumonia, tuberculosis or a cancer that it not in any way HIV-related. Another health condition could cause the same symptoms.

Again, if there is any doubt about whether such symptoms are HIV related or not, an HIV test is required.

Copyright © 2016 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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