HEALTH SERIES: HIV/AIDS Pt 2 – Signs and symptoms of HIV infection – Dr.Chin Akano

 SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HIV INFECTION

 

Before i discuss this in detail, I will like to state that HIV infected individuals may show only a few or no symptom at all for several years even up to 20 years before they show any .

So it is advisable for individuals to run routine HIV tests to ascertain their status.

 

This is the wise thing to do because the earlier one discovers that they are infected , the sooner they start treatment and the better the outcome.

HIV infection goes through three stages in an individual between when they contact the infection to when they develop the full blown late or advanced stage of the infection otherwise referred to as AIDS.

These stages are as follows:

  •  Acute infection

  •  Latent phase

  •  AIDS

Acute infection phase:

 This is the phase immediately following the exposure to the HIV infection. Often people show no symptoms at all until about 2-4 weeks following the exposure  . This is often referred to as sero-conversion.

Then they may experience symptoms which appear like flu illness or can even be mistaken for malaria or typhoid fever. When these symptoms develop, they may last for several weeks before they disappear and the individual becomes free of them.

The patient is much more infectious during this period and as such it is important that the disease is diagnosed at this stage.

The message is that if any one comes down with any of the under listed symptoms, it is advisable that they take an HIV test because this stage is  highly infectious.

The symptoms are usually as follows:

  • High temperature (fever)

  • Swollen glands ( lymphadenopathy)

  • Sore throat (pharyngitis)

  • Rashes in the body and face

  •  Muscle and joint pain

  •  Feeling tired and generally unwell

  •  Mouth sores.

  • Sores in the oesophagus (gullet)

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Weight loss

  • Thrush

LATENCY PHASE or chronic or quiet phase

Following the acute phase, the individual develops a strong immunity against the HIV infection and this leads to the development of this quiet phase where the individual may have only very few or no symptoms at all. This can last anywhere from two weeks to even over 20 years depending on the individual.

This stage is dangerous as the sufferer may not know that he/she is carrying this infection and could transmit it to others.

The common symptom at this stage is lymph glands become persistently swollen. It is so important to identify the HIV infection at this stage because initiation of anti-retroviral treatment significantly improves survival.

 

 Late or advanced stage formerly known as AIDS

AIDS, the final stage of HIV infection when the immunity is almost fully compromised. At this stage the CD4+ T cell numbers decline below a critical level of 200 cells per µL.

At this stage the individual becomes quite ill and comes down with various infections, cancers and other diseases.

 

Some of the common diseases that the infected individual suffer at this stage are as follows:

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Recurrent respiratory tract infections like throat infection (pharyngitis) sinus infections, chronic cough, ear infection (otitis media), chest infections.

  • Mouth/tongue ulcers

  • Oesophageal ulcers

  • Skin rashes

  • Thrush [ candidiasis eg vaginal, oral ]

  • Staph aureus, some streptococcal infection

  • Very serious and fatal pneumonia caused by fungus pneumocystis carinii pneumonia

  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB)

  • Shingles

  • Herpes infections

  • Certain cancers like Kaposi’s sarcoma and some lymphomas

Next, we will be discussing  the diagnosis and prevention of HIV infection.  Join in tomorrow, Thurday for the 3rd part in our series.

Thank you for reading.

Dr. Chin Akano

Click to read PT  1 :HEALTH SERIES:  HIV and AIDS (Pt 1) – Dr.Chin Akano

 

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