- HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
- There is currently no effective cure. Once people get HIV, they have it for life.
- But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. People with HIV who get effective HIV treatment can live long, healthy lives and protect their partners.
- HIV infection in humans came from a type of chimpanzee in Central Africa.
- The chimpanzee version of the virus (called simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV) was probably passed to humans when humans hunted these chimpanzees for meat and came in contact with their infected blood.
- Studies show that HIV may have jumped from chimpanzees to humans as far back as the late s.
- Over decades, HIV slowly spread across Africa and later into other parts of the world. We know that the virus has existed in the United States since at least the mid to late s.
To learn more about the history of HIV in the United States and CDC’s response to the epidemic, see CDC’s HIV and AIDS Timeline.How do I know if I have HIV?
The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your HIV status helps you make healthy decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV.Are there symptoms?
Some people have flu-like symptoms within 2 to 4 weeks after infection (called acute HIV infection). These symptoms may last for a few days or several weeks. Possible symptoms include
- Night sweats,
- Muscle aches,
- Sore throat,
- Swollen lymph nodes, and
- Mouth ulcers.
But some people may not feel sick during acute HIV infection. These symptoms don’t mean you have HIV. Other illnesses can cause these same symptoms.
See a health care provider if you have these symptoms and think you may have been exposed to HIV. Getting tested for HIV is the only way to know for sure.What are the stages of HIV?
When people with HIV don’t get treatment, they typically progress through three stages. But HIV medicine can slow or prevent progression of the disease. With the advancements in treatment, progression to Stage 3 is less common today than in the early days of HIV.
Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection
- People have a large amount of HIV in their blood. They are very contagious.
- Some people have flu-like symptoms. This is the body’s natural response to infection.
- But some people may not feel sick right away or at all.
- If you have flu-like symptoms and think you may have been exposed to HIV, seek medical care and ask for a test to diagnose acute infection.
- Only antigen/antibody tests or nucleic acid tests (NATs) can diagnose acute infection.
Stage 2: Chronic HIV Infection
- This stage is also called asymptomatic HIV infection or clinical latency.
- HIV is still active but reproduces at very low levels.
- People may not have any symptoms or get sick during this phase.
- Without taking HIV medicine, this period may last a decade or longer, but some may progress faster.
- People can transmit HIV in this phase.
- At the end of this phase, the amount of HIV in the blood (called viral load) goes up and the CD4 cell count goes down. The person may have symptoms as the virus levels increase in the body, and the person moves into Stage 3.
- People who take HIV medicine as prescribed may never move into Stage 3.
Stage 3: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
- The most severe phase of HIV infection.
- People with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses, called opportunistic infections.
- People receive an AIDS diagnosis when their CD4 cell count drops below cells/mm, or if they develop certain opportunistic infections.
- People with AIDS can have a high viral load and be very infectious.
- Without treatment, people with AIDS typically survive about three years.
Symptoms - HIV and AIDS
Most people infected with HIV experience a short, flu-like illness that occurs weeks after infection. After this, HIV may not cause any symptoms for several years.
It's estimated up to 80% of people who are infected with HIV experience this flu-like illness.
The most common symptoms are:
- raised temperature (fever)
- sore throat
- body rash
Other symptoms can include:
- joint pain
- muscle pain
- swollen glands
The symptoms usually last weeks, but can be longer. They're a sign that your immune system is putting up a fight against the virus.
But having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have the HIV virus. Remember: they're commonly caused by conditions other than HIV.
If you have several of these symptoms and think you've been at risk of HIV infection within the past few weeks, you should get an HIV test.
After the initial symptoms disappear, HIV may not cause any further symptoms for many years.
During this time, the virus continues to be active and causes progressive damage to your immune system.
This process can vary from person to person, but may take up to 10 years, during which you'll feel and appear well.
Once the immune system becomes severely damaged, symptoms can include:
- weight loss
- chronic diarrhoea
- night sweats
- skin problems
- recurrent infections
- serious life-threatening illnesses
Earlier diagnosis and treatment of HIV can prevent these problems.
Read more about treating HIV
You should still take an HIV test if you may have been at risk at any time in the past, even if you do not experience any symptoms.
Symptoms of HIV
How Can You Tell If You Have HIV?
The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. You can’t rely on symptoms to tell whether you have HIV.
Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information so you can take steps to keep yourself and your partner(s) healthy:
- If you test positive, you can take medicine to treat HIV. By taking HIV medicine daily as prescribed, you can make the amount of HIV in your blood (your viral load) very low—so low that a test can’t detect it (called an undetectable viral load). Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load is the best thing you can do to stay healthy. If your viral load stays undetectable, you have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
- If you test negative, there are more HIV prevention tools available today than ever before.
- If you are pregnant, you should be tested for HIV so that you can begin treatment if you're HIV-positive. If an HIV-positive woman is treated for HIV early in her pregnancy, the risk of transmitting HIV to her baby can be very low.
Use the HIV Services Locator to find an HIV testing site near you.
HIV self-testing is also an option. Self-testing allows people to take an HIV test and find out their result in their own home or other private location. You can buy a self-test kit at a pharmacy or online, or your health care provider may be able to order one for you. Some health departments or community-based organizations also provide self-test kits for free.
What Are the Symptoms of HIV?
There are several symptoms of HIV. Not everyone will have the same symptoms. It depends on the person and what stage of the disease they are in.
Below are the three stages of HIV and some of the symptoms people may experience.
Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection
Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, about two-thirds of people will have a flu-like illness. This is the body’s natural response to HIV infection.
Flu-like symptoms can include:
- Night sweats
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Mouth ulcers
These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. But some people do not have any symptoms at all during this early stage of HIV.
Don’t assume you have HIV just because you have any of these symptoms—they can be similar to those caused by other illnesses. But if you think you may have been exposed to HIV, get an HIV test.
Here’s what to do:
- Find an HIV testing site near you—You can get an HIV test at your primary care provider’s office, your local health department, a health clinic, or many other places. Use the HIV Services Locator to find an HIV testing site near you.
- Request an HIV test for recent infection—Most HIV tests detect antibodies (proteins your body makes as a reaction to HIV), not HIV itself. But it can take a few weeks after you’re infected for your body to produce them. There are other types of tests that can detect HIV infection sooner. Tell your doctor or clinic if you think you were recently exposed to HIV, and ask if their tests can detect early infection.
- Know your status—After you get tested, be sure to learn your test results. If you’re HIV-positive, see a doctor as soon as possible so you can start treatment with HIV medicine. And be aware: when you are in the early stage of infection, you are at very high risk of transmitting HIV to others. It is important to take steps to reduce your risk of transmission. If you are HIV-negative, there are prevention tools like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) that can help you stay negative.
Stage 2: Clinical Latency
In this stage, the virus still multiplies, but at very low levels. People in this stage may not feel sick or have any symptoms. This stage is also called chronic HIV infection.
Without HIV treatment, people can stay in this stage for 10 or 15 years, but some move through this stage faster.
If you take HIV medicine every day, exactly as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load, you can protect your health and have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to your sexual partner(s).
But if your viral load is detectable, you can transmit HIV during this stage, even when you have no symptoms. It’s important to see your health care provider regularly to get your viral load checked.
Stage 3: AIDS
If you have HIV and you are not on HIV treatment, eventually the virus will weaken your body’s immune system and you will progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). This is the late stage of HIV infection.
Symptoms of AIDS can include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Recurring fever or profuse night sweats
- Extreme and unexplained tiredness
- Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
- 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, depression, and other neurologic disorders
Each of these symptoms can also be related to other illnesses. The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. If you are HIV-positive, a health care provider will diagnose if your HIV has progressed to stage 3 (AIDS) based on certain medical criteria.
Many of the severe symptoms and illnesses of HIV disease come from the opportunistic infections that occur because your body’s immune system has been damaged. See your health care provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
Read more about the difference between HIV and AIDS.
Early Signs of HIV
When it comes to HIV transmission, it’s important to know what early symptoms to look for. Early detection of HIV can help ensure prompt treatment to control the virus and prevent progression into stage 3 HIV. Stage 3 HIV is more commonly known as AIDS.
Early treatment using antiretroviral drugs also makes the virus undetectable, which can prevent transmission to other people.
Early symptoms of HIV
The early signs of HIV may appear as symptoms similar to those caused by the flu. These can include:
Early HIV symptoms generally arise within one to two months after transmission, although they can arrive as soon as two weeks after exposure, according to HIV.gov. Moreover, some people may experience no early symptoms after they’ve contracted HIV. It’s important to remember that these early HIV symptoms are also associated with common illnesses and health conditions. To be sure of HIV status, consider talking with a healthcare provider about testing options.
The lack of symptoms can last for as long as 10 years. However, this doesn’t mean that the virus is gone. HIV is a manageable health condition. But left untreated, HIV can progress to stage 3 even if no symptoms are present. That’s why it’s so important to get tested.
Symptoms of AIDS
Symptoms that indicate HIV may have progressed to stage 3 include:
Stages of HIV
Depending on the phase of HIV, symptoms can vary.
The first stage of HIV is known as acute or primary HIV infection. It’s also called acute retroviral syndrome. During this stage, most people experience common flu-like symptoms that may be hard to distinguish from a gastrointestinal or respiratory infection.
The next phase is the clinical latency stage. The virus becomes less active, though it’s still in the body. During this stage, people experience no symptoms while the viral infection progresses at very low levels. This period of latency can last a decade or longer. Many people show no symptoms of HIV during this entire year period.
The final phase of HIV is stage 3. During this phase, the immune system is severely damaged and is vulnerable to opportunistic infections. Once HIV progresses into stage 3, symptoms associated with infections may become apparent. These symptoms can include:
Symptoms associated with HIV itself, such as cognitive impairment, can also become apparent.
Is there a period when the virus isn’t transmittable?
HIV is transmittable soon after it’s introduced into the body. During this phase, the bloodstream contains higher levels of HIV, which makes it easy to transmit it to others.
Since not everyone has early symptoms of HIV, getting tested is the only way to know if the virus has been contracted. An early diagnosis also allows an HIV-positive person to begin treatment. Proper treatment can eliminate their risk of transmitting the virus to their sexual partners.
When it comes to HIV symptoms, remember that it’s not always HIV itself that makes people feel sick. Many HIV symptoms, particularly the most severe ones, arise from opportunistic infections.
The germs responsible for these infections are generally kept at bay in people who have an intact immune system. However, when the immune system is impaired, these germs can attack the body and cause illness. People who show no symptoms during early stage HIV may become symptomatic and begin to feel sick if the virus progresses.
HIV testing is important, since a person living with HIV who isn’t getting treatment can still transmit the virus, even if they have no symptoms. Others may contract the virus to others through an exchange of bodily fluids. However, today’s treatment can effectively eliminate the risk of transmitting the virus to a person’s HIV-negative sexual partners.
According to the , antiretroviral therapy can lead to viral suppression. When an HIV-positive person is able to maintain an undetectable viral load, they can’t transmit HIV to others. An undetectable viral load is defined by the CDC as fewer than copies per milliliter (mL) of blood.
Taking an HIV test is the only way to determine whether the virus is in the body. There are known risk factors that increase a person’s chance of contracting HIV. For example, people who have had sex without a condom or shared needles may want to consider seeing their healthcare provider about getting tested.
Read this article in Spanish.
Hiv detailed symptoms of
A Timeline of HIV Symptoms
What is HIV?
HIV is a virus that compromises the immune system. There’s currently no cure for it, but there are treatments available to reduce its effects on people’s lives.
In the majority of cases, once HIV infection takes hold, the virus stays in the body for life. However, unlike what may occur with infections by other types of viruses, HIV symptoms don’t suddenly appear and peak overnight.
If left untreated, the disease progresses over time through three stages, each with its own set of possible symptoms and complications — some severe.
Regular antiretroviral treatment can reduce HIV to undetectable levels in the blood. At undetectable levels, the virus won’t progress to the later stages of HIV infection. In addition, the virus can’t be transmitted to a partner during sex.
Early symptoms in primary HIV
The first noticeable stage is primary HIV infection. This stage is also called acute retroviral syndrome (ARS), or acute HIV infection. Because HIV infection at this stage usually causes flu-like symptoms, it’s possible for someone in this stage to think their symptoms are due to a severe flu rather than HIV. Fever is the most common symptom.
Other symptoms include:
According to the , primary HIV symptoms may show up two to four weeks after initial exposure. Symptoms can continue for up to several weeks. However, some people may exhibit the symptoms only for a few days.
People with early HIV sometimes don’t show any symptoms, yet they can still transmit the virus to others. This is attributed to the fast, unrestrained viral replication that occurs in the early weeks after contracting the virus.
Lack of symptoms in early stages
ARS is common once a person has HIV. Still, this isn’t the case for everyone. Some people have HIV for years before they know they have it. According to HIV.gov, symptoms of HIV may not appear for a decade or longer. This doesn’t mean that cases of HIV without symptoms are less serious. Also, a person who doesn’t experience symptoms could still transmit HIV to others.
Symptoms in early HIV tend to appear if the rate of cell destruction is high. Not having symptoms can mean that not as many CD4 cells, a type of white blood cell, are killed early on in the disease. Even though a person has no symptoms, they still have the virus. That’s why regular HIV testing is critical to prevent transmission. It’s also important to understand the difference between a CD4 count and a viral load.
Latency causes a break in symptoms
After initial exposure and possible primary infection, HIV may transition into a stage called clinically latent infection. It’s also referred to as asymptomatic HIV infection due to a noticeable lack of symptoms. This lack of symptoms includes possible chronic symptoms.
According to HIV.gov, latency in HIV infection can last for 10 or 15 years. This doesn’t mean that HIV is gone, nor does it mean that the virus can’t be transmitted to others. Clinically latent infection may progress to the third and final stage of HIV, also referred to as AIDS.
The risk for progression is higher if a person with HIV isn’t receiving treatment, such as antiretroviral therapy. It’s important to take prescribed medications during all stages of HIV — even if there aren’t any noticeable symptoms. There are several medications used for HIV treatment.
After acute infection, HIV is considered chronic. This means that the disease is ongoing. Symptoms of chronic HIV can vary. There can be long periods when the virus is present but symptoms are minimal.
In more advanced stages of chronic HIV, symptoms can be much more severe than they are in ARS. People with advanced, chronic HIV can experience episodes of:
AIDS is the final stage
Controlling HIV with medications is crucial to both maintaining quality of life and helping prevent progression of the disease. Stage 3 HIV, also known as AIDS, develops when HIV has significantly weakened the immune system.
According to the CDC National Prevention Information Network, CD4 levels give one indication that HIV has progressed to its final stage. CD4 levels decreasing below cells per cubic millimeter (mm3) of blood is considered a sign of AIDS. A normal range is considered to 1, cells/mm3.
AIDS can be diagnosed with a blood test to measure CD4. Sometimes it’s also determined simply by a person’s overall health. In particular, an infection that’s rare in people who don’t have HIV may indicate AIDS. Symptoms of AIDS include:
AIDS is the final stage of HIV. According to AIDSinfo, it takes at least 10 years without treatment for most people with HIV to develop AIDS.
At that point, the body is susceptible to a wide range of infections and can’t effectively fight them off. Medical intervention is necessary to treat AIDS-related illnesses or complications that can otherwise be fatal. Without treatments, the CDC estimates the average survival rate to be three years once AIDS is diagnosed. Depending on the severity of their condition, a person’s outlook may be significantly shorter.
The key to living with HIV is to continue seeing a healthcare provider for regular treatments. New or worsening symptoms are reasons enough to visit one as soon as possible. It’s also important to know how HIV affects the body.
Read this article in Spanish.
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