HIV Infection

In people with HIV, may occur a health condition is called AIDS. Antiretroviral medications can help to decrease the risk of AIDS and lessen the symptoms. In this article, we will talk about HIV symptoms, causes, and treatment.


This is a virus that negatively affects the immune system and if it is not treated, it may lead to unpleasant results including health conditions and cancers. This virus is transmitted through body fluids such as:

  • Semen
  • Blood
  • Vaginal and rectal fluids
  • Breast milk

Unfortunately, there is no medicine that removes HIV from your body but scientists are working to find one. However, antiretroviral medications help to manage this virus for many years. In case an individual ignores HIV treatment, it may lead to a serious health condition called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome also known as AIDS. Therefore, a weakened immune system is unable to successfully respond to other conditions, infections, and diseases. In such cases, life expectancy is roughly 3 years.


In normal circumstances, an individual has a CD4 cell count of 500 to 1600 cubic millimeters but HIV kills these cells. Therefore, the CD4 count may fall below 200 per cubic millimeter. In such cases, a person is diagnosed with AIDS. Furthermore, a person becomes vulnerable to a wide range of diseases if experiences AIDS. Example include:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Oral thrush
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • Cancer (such as Kaposi sarcoma and lymphoma)
  • Cryptococcal meningitis
  • Lung disease (such as pneumonia)

Symptoms of HIV

Usually, after an individual gets this virus, it multiplies rapidly the first time. This period is called the acute infection stage. During this stage, the immune system responds by producing HIV antibodies. These antibodies are proteins that take measures to respond against infection. Some people do not experience any symptoms during the acute infection stage but others may notice some of them. Check below some examples:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Skin rash
  • General aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Stomach upset
  • Sore throat

In addition, many of these symptoms are the same as common diseases such as flu. Therefore, a person might not think a healthcare provider is required. In any case, the viral load of that person in the early stages is very elevated. Furthermore, HIV can be transmitted easily to another person during the acute infection stage.

HIV infections enter the clinical latency stage after one month or so. This stage may last from some years to a few decades. While some people do not experience any symptoms, other people may notice some nonspecific symptoms. These symptoms do not belong to one specific health condition. Examples include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Skin rashes
  • Recurrent oral or vaginal yeast infections
  • Lung disease
  • Shingles
  • Diarrhea
  • Night sweats
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Headache or other aches and pains

In case the treatment is started early enough, the progression of the virus can be considerably decreased. Therefore, this treatment will help to prevent the development of AIDS.

HIV in Men and Women

Maybe someone asks if there is a difference. Mostly not symptoms in both males and females can appear and disappear or get worse. Someone who was exposed to HIV may also be exposed to other sexually transmitted diseases (STIs). For example:

  • Trichomoniasis
  • Syphilis
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea

However, males are more likely to experience sexually transmitted diseases than females.

Symptoms that occur in women mostly are similar to men. In addition, females are at increased risk of STIs as men but they also may develop other unpleasant results. Examples include:

  • Vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV), which may provoke genital warts leading to cervical cancer
  • Menstrual cycle changes
  • Recurrent vagina yeast infections

Treating HIV is recommended because it decreases the risk of transmitting this virus to your baby during pregnancy. Moreover, antiretroviral therapy is considered safe to be used in a pregnant woman. Additionally, breast milk may also be affected by HIV. It means that this virus can be transferred to a baby while breastfeeding.

AIDS Symptoms

The weakened immune system occurs when you experience Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome also called AIDS. If you have a type of HIV that does not respond to antiretroviral therapy, AIDS may also occur. Check below AIDS symptoms:

  • Night sweats
  • Recurrent fever
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Dark splotches under your skin or inside the mouth, eyelids, or nose
  • Recurrent or chronic diarrhea
  • Mental disorders (including anxiety and depression)
  • Neurologic issues such as concentration problems, memory loss, confusion, and others
  • Chronic swollen lymph glands
  • Lesions, spots, or sores of the tongue, genitals, anus, or mouth
  • Bumps or rashes of the skin

In most cases, treatment helps to control the virus and decrease the risk or progression of AIDS.

How HIV can be transmitted to others?

Different ways can transfer this virus to other people. Check below some examples:

  • Non-sterilized tattoo equipment
  • During pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Exposure to the blood, vaginal or rectal fluids, semen, or breast milk
  • The most common route of transmission is vaginal or anal sex
  • Sharing syringes, needles, or another item for injection use

It may also be transmitted through blood transfusion or organ and tissue transplant. In any case, tests showed that is very rare in the U.S.

Check below some examples that HIV cannot be transmitted:

  • Air or water
  • Saliva, tears, or sweat
  • Mosquitoes or other insects
  • Sharing towels, bedding, or toilet
  • Foods or drinks
  • Hugging, shaking hands, or kissing
  • Skin-to-skin contact

In addition, if an individual is treated with antiretroviral therapy and has an undetectable virus load, it is roughly impossible to transmit HIV to another person.


Scientists suspect that this virus may be transmitted from African chimpanzees. It was transmitted through the meat that people consumed. Thereafter, this virus mutated in the human body and became HIV as we know it. The first time HIV was discovered in a human blood sample was in 1959.


It is advised to start the treatment as soon as possible after HIV diagnosis. The common treatment for HIV is daily antiretroviral medicines. They help to stop the virus from multiplying. An effective treatment will decrease the amount of virus in your blood. It means that you still have HIV but it is not visible in test results. However, stopping the treatment, the virus will increase again.


There are available different medicines that help to prevent HIV from reproducing. These medications are FDA-approved. Check below seven classes of antiretroviral medications:

  • CCR5 antagonists also known as entry inhibitors
  • Fusion inhibitors
  • Protease inhibitors
  • Attachment inhibitors
  • Integrase strand transfer inhibitors
  • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)
  • Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)

Adverse effects that may occur during treatment are different among people. Nausea, headaches, and dizziness are some mild side effects. However, in some people, certain severe side effects may appear such as swelling of the mouth or tongue and liver or kidney disease. Therefore, you should consult a doctor for medicines adjustment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the rash a symptom of HIV?

Many people experience some skin changes if they are diagnosed with HIV. One of the most common symptoms of this virus is rash. HIV infection destroys the immune system and makes people more susceptible to skin problems. However, other infections that may also provoke rash are molluscum contagiosum, herpes simplex, shingles, and others.

How to prevent HIV infection?

Use a barrier method such as condoms or dental dams during sexual activity because vaginal or anal sex are the most common ways to transmit HIV infection. If you have any questions, ask your healthcare professional.

Is there a vaccine for HIV infection?

At this moment, there are no vaccines available to prevent or treat HIV. However, research and testing on experimental vaccines are ongoing but no one is approved for general use. For more details, talk with your healthcare provider.

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