HIV and AIDS: Subtle symptoms in 2024 

An HIV diagnosis can be as manageable as a diagnosis of high blood pressure. But if it’s not treated quickly, it can lead to significant health complications and even death. Untreated HIV can progress to a point where the body is no longer able to fight off infection. However, with proper medical care and the right medications, it can be controlled.  

AIDS is a disease that can develop in people who have HIV. Treatment with antiretroviral drugs can help prevent AIDS from growing in HIV patients. It’s a very scary disease that can lead to a person’s death, that’s why it’s important to practice safety precautions and, most importantly safe sex. 

This article will give you a more recent update on HIV/AIDS, including prevention strategies, possible symptoms to look out for, treatment options, cost of treatments, and more. 

What is HIV?

An image of the HIV virus

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s a virus that damages the immune system specifically targeting CD4 cells, which are a type of immune cell called T cells. These cells are crucial for fighting off infections and diseases. Over time, as HIV kills more CD4 cells, the body is more likely to get various types of conditions and cancers. 

It is transmitted through the following ways:

  • blood
  • breast milk 
  • semen 
  • vaginal and rectal fluids 

sharing of needles or syringes with an affected person

You can’t get the virus through air, water, or casual contact like handshakes or hugs. 

Because it goes into the DNA of cells, it becomes a lifelong condition, and there’s currently no cure to eliminate it from the body, although research is being done to find one.

However, with the proper medical care, many people have been able to manage it and live with it for many years. 

About 1.2 million Americans are presently living with HIV. And about 13 percent of them aren’t aware and need testing. 

What is AIDS?

AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency syndrome, is a disease in which the immune system is severely damaged. It is the late stage of HIV infection caused by the Human immune deficiency virus. However, just because a person has HIV doesn’t mean they’ll automatically 

develop AIDS. Now, the average healthy adults generally have a CD4 count of 500 to 1,600 per cubic millimeter. A person with HIV whose CD4 count is under 200 per cubic millimeter, will be diagnosed with AIDS. 

When the virus has advanced it leaves a person susceptible to health issues such as infections and certain cancers that would not typically cause illness in people with healthy immune systems. The person’s body will be in its most fragile state, and simple illnesses can even lead to death. 

An opportunistic infection such as Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia is one that only develops in a severely immunocompromised person, such as someone with advanced HIV infection (AIDS). Without treatment or proper care, the virus can progress to AIDS within 10 years. There’s no cure for this and without treatment, a person’s life expectancy after diagnosis is about 3 years. 

It may even be shorter if a person develops a more severe opportunity illness. However, treatment with antiretroviral drugs can prevent AIDS from developing. In a case where it does develop, it simply means that the body has lost its strength in fighting diseases and infections. And the patient will be vulnerable to a wide range of illnesses. including: 

  • pneumonia 
  • toxoplasmosis of the brain 
  • cryptococcal meningitis
  • oral thrush, a fungal condition in the mouth or throat. 
  • cancer, including Kaposi sarcoma and lymphoma 
  • cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • cryptosporidiosis is a condition caused by an intestinal parasite

Early symptoms of HIV 

Some people might experience flu-like symptoms within a few weeks of acquiring the virus or acute infection state. The symptoms might last for days or a few weeks.

Common flu-like symptoms include:

  • Fever 
  • skin rash 
  • chills
  • sore throat 
  • nausea 
  • muscle aches 
  • swollen lymph nodes 
  • night sweats
  • headaches 
  • upset stomach 

Due to the similarities of these symptoms to common illnesses like the flu, the person who has them may not think it’s urgent to see a healthcare provider and may rather just choose to use over-the-counter medicine. And even in cases where they do decide to visit the doctor, the doctor might suspect the Flu or mononucleosis and might not even consider HIV. It’s important to remember that not everyone will experience the same symptoms or even have any symptoms at all. The only way to find out you have the virus is to get tested.

Whether a person has symptoms or not, during the early stage (viral load) they would be able to transmit it to someone. Initial HIV symptoms usually resolve within a few months as the person enters the chronic, or clinical latency stage of the virus infection. This stage can last many years or even decades with treatment. 

What are the later symptoms?

After a few weeks or so, the virus enters the clinical latency stage. This stage can last for years, down to decades even. 

The tricky thing here is some people don’t have any symptoms during this time, while others may have minimal or nonspecific symptoms. A nonspecific symptom is a symptom that doesn’t pertain to one specific disease or condition. This can make it difficult to identify the virus. 

Here are some of the nonspecific symptoms:

  • night sweats 
  • swollen lymph nodes 
  • fatigue 
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea 
  • recurrent fevers
  • headaches and other pains 
  • weight loss 
  • shingles
  • pneumonia 
  • skin rash 
  • recurrent oral or vaginal yeast infection 

As with the early stage, it is still transferable, and even with the absence of symptoms, a person can still give it to another person.  One can never really know they are infected until they get tested. The symptoms during this time could be intermittent or may progress drastically. However, the progression can be slowed with treatment. 

Is the rash a significant symptom?

Yes, a rash can be a symptom, particularly during the early stages of infection. In the acute phase of virus infection, some people may develop a rash as the first symptom. Generally, an HIV rash appears as multiple small red lesions that are flat and raised.

What are the symptoms of AIDS

1 . Recurrent fever 

2 . chronic fatigue 

3 . night sweats 

4 . rapid weight loss

5 . chronic swollen lymph nodes, especially in the armpits, neck, and groin.

6 . Bumps, lesions, or rashes on the skin

7 . Sores, spots, or lesions of the mouth and tongue, genitals, or anus.

8 . Recurrent or chronic diarrhea 

9 . Trouble with concentration, memory loss, and confusion.

10 . Anxiety and depression 

11 . Dark splotches under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids. 

A person may not get to this point if they’re under antiretroviral therapy, which controls the virus and usually prevents progression to AIDS. Other infections and complications of AIDS can also be treated. That treatment must be tailored to the patient’s needs. 

HIV symptoms in men and women.

Both experience similar symptoms. However, when each of them comes in contact with the virus, it could also mean that they have been exposed to other STIs. These include:

  • syphilis 
  • trichomoniasis
  • gonorrhea 
  • chlamydia 

Men and those with a penis may be more likely to notice symptoms of STIs such as sores on their genitals.

Women with STIs are more prone to the following conditions:

  • recurrent vaginal yeast infection
  • other vaginal infections, including bacterial vaginosis 
  • pelvic inflammatory disease
  • missed period 
  • human papilloma virus 

While it’s not related to any symptoms, a pregnant lady can pass it down to her unborn child. However, with antiretroviral therapy, they are at very low risk for transmitting HIV to their baby during pregnancy and delivery. 

In the United States, mothers with the virus are advised to not breastfeed their babies. Instead, they recommend the use of a formula. Other options besides formula include pasteurized banked human milk. 

The real ways HIV is transmitted 

Anyone can get infected. Because the infection doesn’t select age or gender. The most common ways the virus is transmitted are the following:

  • Bodily fluids 
  • blood 
  • breast milk
  • semen
  • vaginal and rectal fluids

Person to person 

Some of the ways HIV is transferred from one person to another is:

1 . Through vaginal or anal sex (the most way of it’s transmitted)

2 . Sharing of needles, syringes, and other items for injection drug use.

3 . During pregnancy and delivery from mother to baby. 

4 . When a person is breastfeeding their baby

5 . Using unsterilized tattoo equipment.

The virus can also be transmitted through a blood transfusion or organ and tissue transplant. However, there is always thorough testing done on blood, organ, and tissue donors, to ensure that this is very rare in the United States.

Rare cases 

It’s very rare for the virus to be transmitted during this case. Some of these are:

1 . Oral sex ( only if the infected person has a bleeding gum or open sores in their mouth)

2 . If an infected person bites you ( only if there is blood present in their saliva, or there are open sores in their mouth) 

3 . Contact with broken skin, wounds, or mucous, membranes with an infected person.

You can’t get infected through the following ways

Over the years, many people believe they can get infected through the following ways:

1 . Hugging, shaking hands, or kissing 

2 . Skin to skin contact 

3 . Air or water 

4 . Sharing foods and drinks

5 . Saliva, tears, or sweat ( unless there is a presence of blood and the person is infected)

6 . Sharing toilet, towels, or bedsheets.

7 . Mosquitoes or other insects.

Treatment options for HIV

Treatment should begin as soon as possible after a diagnosis of HIV, regardless of viral load. The go-to treatment for this virus is antiretroviral therapy, a combination of daily medications that stop the virus from reproducing. This helps to ensure the CD4 cells are protected and keeps the immune system strong enough to take measures against disease.

The importance of antiretroviral therapy is to keep the virus from progressing to AIDS. And also helps reduce the risk of transmitting it to others.

When treatment has started and starts to become effective, the viral load will be “undetectable.” Although the person will still have HIV, the virus will not be visible in test results.

And because the virus is still in the body, the person must never stop taking antiretroviral therapy, as the viral load will increase again, and HIV can again start attacking CD4 cells.

Side effects and costs

While antiretroviral therapy is great for treating the virus, it may come with some cons, such as nausea, headaches, weakness, and dizziness. The side effects of antiretroviral therapy vary and some patients may experience other forms. Some of the side effects can be more intense and they include, swelling of the mouth and tongue and liver or kidney damage. If side effects are severe, the doctors can make some adjustments to the medications.

But the good news is the symptoms are often temporary and disappear with time. 

The cost of antiretroviral therapy varies according to a person’s geographic location and type of insurance coverage. Some pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs to help lower the cost. 

Wise moves to make to prevent HIV and AIDS

1 . Practice safe sex(use condoms)

2 . You and your partner should get tested.

3 . Get tested for other STIs 

4 . Avoid sharing needles or other paraphernalia.

5 . Consider PEP

6 .  Abstain from sex

7 . Avoid sleeping with random people.

8 . Don’t have sex when you’re drunk

9 .  Be stern with needles being sterilized before it’s used on you.

10 . Wash your hands before any sexual contact.

11 . Shower after sex

12 . Pee after sex to help prevent urinary tract infections 

13 . Never reuse a condom

14 . Never remove a condom or try to put it on again.

15 . Check the expiration date of the condom

Related posts

Tuberculosis: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment In 2024

Grace Oluchi

Tips for Administering Subcutaneous Injection.

Grace Oluchi

Cleft Chin: Removal, Implants, Cost and Causes.

Grace Oluchi

Leave a Comment