The signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS in men and women are common that people often take them for granted. This has, therefore, made it one of the silent-killer diseases in our contemporary society. It is a virus that damages the immune system, which is the natural defence of the body against illness and various diseases. HIV/AIDS gets the system weaker to the point that it can no longer defend itself against life-threatening infections and diseases. Here is all you need to know about its symptoms.
Fully known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV is considered the mother of many viruses. Since it breaks down the immune system, it makes way for other infections. When this virus remains in the human body without treatment, it leads to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). This is a stage of degeneration where the CD4 cells are completely destroyed. Therefore, understanding what the symptoms of this disease are in its early stage is vital.
What are the symptoms of HIV?
HIV increases the risk of tuberculosis, an airborne bacterium that affects the lungs. It leads to chest pain and a bad cough that sometimes contains blood or phlegm, which can last for months. However, it is worth noting that these symptoms do not pertain to one particular disease. They must not be taken as the only early symptoms of HIV that exist. When this killer disease is still in its embryonic stage, some of the most common signs of HIV include the following:
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
- Skin rashes
- Headaches and pains
What are the early symptoms of HIV in men?
One may ask, are there different symptoms of HIV in men as to women? Although the symptoms of this deadly disease vary from one person to another, they are also similar in men and women. However, one of the most common HIV symptoms in men after 1 week is the appearance of sores on their genitals, apart from the symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
Some men may also suffer from inadequate production of sex hormones. These are part of the general signs that an infected person experiences.
What are the early symptoms of HIV in females?
Women are perhaps less likely to notice small spots on their genitals. Nevertheless, women with HIV are at high risk of:
- Constant vaginal yeast infection
- Menstrual cycle changes
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
A pictorial view of how HIV operates in the human body is given below:
What are the stages of HIV infection?
Basically, there are three stages of HIV, and they include:
Stage 1: Acute stage
This is the first few weeks after transmission. It is important to note that HIV can be effectively controlled at an early stage (Acute Infection Stage) when it has not reproduced itself or destroyed many cells (also known as CD4 cells). When these CD4 cells are destroyed below the count of 200, the viruses advance to the clinical stage and then to AIDS.
At this stage, advanced treatment increases the risk of advanced sicknesses like Tuberculosis, Kaposi Sarcoma, Cytomegalovirus, Toxoplasma encephalitis, Salmonella infection, Molluscum Contagiosum, and a host of other diseases. It is also possible that antiretroviral treatment can reduce the level of HIV in the body to such a degree that it cannot be detected during blood tests.
Stage 2: Chronic stage or clinical latency
The rate at which the virus progresses through the chronic stage varies from one person to another. However, a typical adult's CD4 (T-helper) count is 500 to 1500 per cubic millimetres. Therefore, someone who has a count below 200 is said to have AIDS. After a few weeks, HIV enters the clinical latency stage, which lasts from a few years to a few decades. Some people experience some minimal or non-specific symptoms at this stage while some do not.
Stage 3: AIDS
As soon as the virus advances to AIDS, the body is put at risk of infections, which include a herpes virus called Cytomegalovirus. It can also cause problems with the eyes, lungs, and digestive tract.
The system is also prone to another possible infection called Kaposi Sarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessel walls. Some of the symptoms are red or dark purple lesions on the skin and mouth. It can also develop problems in the digestive tract, lungs, and other internal organs. It is common in people who are positive.
Is HIV easily transmitted?
Yes, especially when precautionary methods are not put in place. HIV is transmitted in bodily fluids such as:
- Breast milk
- Vaginal secretions
- Snap fluids
The risk of the virus being transmitted through blood transfusion is shallow in countries that have effective screening procedures on the ground for blood donations. Other modes of transmitting this deadly disease are:
- A pregnant mother can transmit this virus during childbirth or through breastfeeding
- Sharing of tattoo equipment without sterilisation between uses
- Having sexual intercourse with an HIV patient without a contraceptive
- Through needles, syringes and other sharp objects used for injections
Once this virus infects someone, it destroys more T-helper cells (also known as CD4 cells) in a bid of replicating itself, and it gradually weakens a person's immune system. But then, there are higher chances of managing a patient if the symptoms of HIV are noticed at an early stage. It can be controlled when it is still early using Antiretroviral Treatment (ART). ART prevents HIV from reaching a very severe level as well as reduce the risk of passing the virus to another person.
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