In line with the "Storytime" series, we'll call this one, "Storytime of how I was circumcised at the age of 7 and again at 13".
This can be classified as a familiar topic; a good number of us have all heard about HIV/AIDS and what it entails. Today we’ll be focusing on the stages of HIV infection, this might not be as popularly understood as the usual premise of HIV. Before we start with the topic for the day, let’s have a reminder of what HIV is. HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a sexually transmitted virus that spreads through exposure to certain bodily fluids—like genital secretions or blood. It can also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
HIV attacks and impairs the body’s immune cells, which weakens the immune system and can eventually progress to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) if it isn’t treated. AIDS is a life-threatening condition, particularly if treatment is not initiated promptly, which is why HIV testing is crucial for protecting your health.
Some early signs of HIV
Some people experience flu-like symptoms at the start of an HIV infection. These symptoms usually develop within 2-4 weeks and may last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. This early stage of the infection is known as an acute HIV infection.
Possible symptoms of acute HIV include:
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Sore throat, Mouth ulcers/Painful mouth sores
- Swollen lymph nodes, mainly on the neck
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
It’s worth keeping in mind that these symptoms can also be caused by other health conditions—not just HIV. In short, if you’re experiencing these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have HIV—some of these symptoms are very similar with pregnancy and Malaria, which is why STI testing and consulting with your healthcare provider can be the helpful next steps to take.
Fever: What is usually the first sign of HIV? Fever is at the top of the list—it’s one of the most common initial signs of an HIV infection. The fever may be accompanied by other symptoms like fatigue, swollen glands, and a sore throat.
Fatigue: Those who feel fatigued early on in the infection might feel out of breath while walking or performing daily tasks.
Swollen lymph nodes: Swollen lymph nodes develop when your body fights infections. Lymph nodes can swell in the neck, armpits, and groin—and lead to aches and pains.
Skin rashes: Skin rashes can occur as both early and later symptoms of HIV. In some cases, the skin rashes look like boils that are itchy with pink breakouts. The HIV rash can also appear as a flat red area on the skin covered with small bumps.
Digestive issues: Digestive problems like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are also common signs of an HIV infection.
Night sweats: Night sweats can happen both as an early and later HIV symptom.
Sore throat and cough: A sore throat and a severe, dry cough can occur, as well. If you have an HIV-related sore throat, or other symptoms related to HIV, it's best to consult a healthcare provider to learn what steps to take next.
STAGES OF HIV INFECTION
If untreated, people living with HIV progress from having no symptoms to developing illness and late-stage infection, ending with AIDS.
Left untreated, HIV infection goes through the following stages:
1. Seroconversion illness
Some people experience a short illness soon after they contract HIV. This is known as seroconversion illness or primary or acute HIV infection. In some people, seroconversion illness is so mild that it passes without being noticed. Some people mistake it for a common cold(cough/catarrh), but for others it's more severe and they may need to see a doctor. Seroconversion is the period when someone with HIV is at their most infectious.
2. The asymptomatic stage of HIV
Once seroconversion is over, most people feel fine and don’t experience any symptoms. This is often called the asymptomatic stage and it can last for several years. Though you might feel well at this stage, the virus is active, infecting new cells, making copies of itself and damaging your immune system’s ability to fight illness.
3. Symptomatic HIV
The longer you live with HIV without treatment, the greater your risk of developing infections that your weakened immune system can’t fight: like certain cancers, as well as the direct effects of HIV. Getting ill in one of these ways means that you now have symptomatic HIV.
4. Late-stage HIV
If HIV has a chance to cause a lot of damage to your immune system, you may become ill from certain serious opportunistic infections and cancers. These illnesses are also known as AIDS-defining.
- tuberculosis (TB)
Most people living with HIV never experience late-stage HIV, though it depends on a range of factors, including how soon you start treatment, how well you respond to it and what lifestyle you lead.
It’s a good idea to be aware of the symptoms of AIDS, as well, which can include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Recurring fever
- Night sweats
- Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
- Chronic diarrhea
- Sores of the mouth, anus, or genitals
- Red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
- Memory loss
In conclusion, if you have had unprotected sex with a possible HIV-positive partner, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible. Knowing if you’re infected—sooner rather than later—can help you begin HIV treatment before the infection seriously harms your health over time by progressing to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS