What are the symptoms of HIV?
HIV may not cause symptoms early on. People who do have symptoms may mistake them for the flu or mono. Early symptoms of HIV are called acute retroviral syndrome. The symptoms may include:
- Muscle aches.
- Skin rash.
- Sore throat.
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin.
- Joint pain.
- Night sweats.
These first symptoms can range from mild to severe and usually disappear on their own after 2 to 3 weeks. But many people don't have symptoms or they have such mild symptoms that they don't notice them at this stage.
Untreated HIV infection progresses in stages. These stages are based on your symptoms and the amount of the virus in your blood.
After the early symptoms go away, an infected person may not have symptoms again for many years. But if untreated, serious symptoms appear and remain. These symptoms usually include:
- Night sweats.
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin.
- Diarrhea or other bowel changes.
- Dry cough or shortness of breath.
- Nail changes.
- Pain when swallowing.
- Repeated outbreaks of cold sores or genital herpes sores.
- Mouth sores or a yeast infection of the mouth (thrush).
How is HIV diagnosed?
Doctors use tests to find HIV antibodies or antigens in urine, saliva, or blood. Most doctors use a blood test called the ELISA. If this test finds HIV antibodies or antigens, another test will be done to look for the DNA or RNA of the virus to make sure.
How is HIV treated?
HIV is treated with a mix of medicines. This is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART aims to control the amount of virus in your body. These medicines slow the rate at which the virus grows. Taking them can reduce the amount of virus in your body and help you stay healthy.
Experts suggest that people start treatment for HIV as soon as they know that they're infected. Treatment is especially important during pregnancy and for people who have other infections.
Make sure you take your medicines exactly as directed. When treatment doesn't work, it's often because the virus has become resistant to the medicine. This can happen if you don't take your medicines in the right way.
Treatment may also include counseling. People with HIV have a greater risk of depression. Counseling can help with this. It can also help you deal with the emotional aspects of having HIV.