SYMPTOMS OF HIV INFECTION

HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus that can cause AIDs if left untreated. This dangerous and contagious disease has killed 1.2 million people, as of 2014. Nearly 37 million people are now living with HIV. The virus attacks the immune system of the body, allowing opportunistic infections to develop gradually.  People with AIDS need medical treatment to prevent death. The first step to treatment is diagnosing the illness. The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. However, it is also important to know the symptoms of HIV virus.

1. BREATHLESSNESS

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People with HIV often experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. This may happen occasionally at first, but then the frequency and intensity of the breathlessness usually increase. This usually happens due to pneumonia or underlying lung infections.

2. ANEMIA

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Anemia or a shortage of red blood cells is a common feature among patients with HIV. This results in fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations. Common causes of anaemia in people with HIV include infections or cancers of the bone marrow or drugs that suppress the bone marrow as a side-effect.

3. BRUISING

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Bruises often appear in patients with HIV. They are caused by low numbers of platelets which are needed for blood clotting. The low platelets are caused by the direct effects of HIV or certain drug treatments on the bone marrow, or by a number of different illnesses including lymphoma, MAI, leishmaniasis and other infections and tumours.

4. NIGHT SWEATS

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Night sweats can range from mild and occasional to frequent and severe. In extreme cases, patients will have to get up and change their bedding. This is caused by a lymphoma or tuberculosis. If the night sweats are intermittent and/or localised, then HIV infection is usually responsible.

5. CONFUSION, MEMORY PROBLEMS AND TROUBLE CONCENTRATING

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Forgetfulness, or difficulty in remembering or recalling facts, are symptoms that many people with symptomatic HIV infection report. They also come with symptoms of stress, moodiness, anxiety, and depression but are more serious if associated with odd behaviour, personality change, disorientation, fits or problems with walking.

6. PAIN ON SWALLOWING

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Pain, when eating or swallowing especially in the throat, is a common presenting problem in people with symptomatic HIV disease. This is caused by the oral sores or thrush. This can lead to ulceration and inflammation of the throat/ esophagus.

7. SORES OR INFECTIONS IN THE MOUTH

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This is caused by a common opportunistic infection in patients with AIDs. The infection is called thrush when it occurs in the mouth. It looks like white patches similar to cottage cheese, or red spots. Moreover, it causes a sore throat, pain when swallowing, nausea, and loss of appetite. Thrush can also cause cracking at the corners of the mouth.

8. DIARRHEA

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Bowel changes and digestive problems appear during the later stages of the disease, once it has progressed to AIDs. People with HIV/AIDs have chronic diarrhea that lasts over a month. It may be accompanied by cramps, nausea, and vomiting. The loss of fluid from diarrhea can be life-threatening as it causes dehydration, malnutrition and weight loss.

9. WEIGHT LOSS

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This symptom is present in both the early stages and later stages. Patients have no appetite and no matter what they eat, they do not gain any weight. Instead, they continue to steadily lose weight. The weight loss is more prominent during the later stages.

10. FLU-LIKE SYMPTOMS

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This occurs within 2-4 weeks after being infected by the virus. People in good health may not experience these symptoms, or are more likely to ignore them. These symptoms include fever, chills and night sweats. Patients generally treat these symptoms with over-the-counter medications and dismiss them by thinking they have a common cold. They may also get rashes, a sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes. Fatigue and muscle pain are also indications of the early stage of having HIV. These symptoms can last from 3 days to several weeks. This is the most dangerous stage because there is a high risk of unknowingly transmitting it to others.