HIV infection: Know early signs and symptoms of it

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a term which applies to the most advanced stages of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. 

By Salome Phelamei | Updated: Sep 11, 2015, 10:56 AM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Salome Phelamei

For most of us, whenever we hear or see the words 'HIV/AIDS', a tingling feeling or a shiver move down our spine.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a term which applies to the most advanced stages of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

While HIV can be transmitted through unprotected sex, it can also be spread by contact with infected blood or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding.

About 36.9 million people were living with HIV globally at the end of 2014, according to estimates by WHO and UNAIDS. Some 2 million people became newly infected, and 1.2 million died of AIDS-related causes in the same period.

There's no cure for HIV infection, but, effective treatment with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs can control the virus so that people with HIV can enjoy healthy and productive lives.

Symptoms of HIV/AIDS vary depending on the stage of infection. Although, sometimes HIV symptoms don't appear for years, and sometimes even a decade - after infection, it's important to know what early symptoms to look out for.

Most of the people infected by HIV develop an influenza-like illness within a month or two after the virus enters the body.

Possible signs and symptoms of acute HIV infection:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Aching muscles
  • Swollen lymph glands – mainly on the neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Ulcers in the mouth or in the genitals
  • Diarhoea
  • Weight loss
  • Nail changes
  • Night sweats

As the infection progressively weakens the immune system, without treatment, an individual could also develop severe illnesses such as tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis, and cancers such as lymphomas and Kaposi's sarcoma, among others.

Seek immediate medical help if you think you may have been infected with HIV or are at risk of contracting the virus.