Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) (cont.)

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What are HIV symptoms and signs?

As described above, although some people have no symptoms in the early weeks after acquiring HIV, between one-third and one-half will experience symptoms of fatigue, achiness, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes, and loss of appetite. Mouth symptoms might include thrush or mouth sores. Fever, neck stiffness, headache, and rash may occur. Symptoms in women may include recurrent vaginal yeast infections. This acute retroviral illness (ARS) usually starts one to six weeks after infection and lasts approximately two weeks. Some people experience ARS as long as three months after initial infection. During this time, the blood is teeming with HIV and the CD4 lymphocyte count is reduced, creating susceptibility to unusual infections. Antibodies against the virus are beginning to form, the viral set point is established, and the infected person becomes asymptomatic, although some may have persistent moderately enlarged lymph nodes. As disease advances, other conditions may appear. Although not specific to HIV, symptoms in women may include recurrent vaginal yeast infections, and symptoms in men who have receptive anal sex may include severe or recurrent herpes infections. Mouth problems might include thrush or oral hairy leukoplakia, which is due to infection with the Epstein-Barr virus.

If patients are not treated, they progress to stage 3 in approximately 10 years. Patients in stage 3 have immune systems that are so impaired that they create susceptibility to unusual infections or cancers. These AIDS-defining conditions are listed above. Symptoms depend on the type of infection or cancer that is acquired. For example, patients with pneumonia may have shortness of breath and cough or wheezing. Occasionally, HIV may cause an AIDS-defining condition directly through intense infection of the brain, which causes confusion and encephalopathy.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/3/2014

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