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Signs of HIV

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What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and it is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body's natural defence system. Without a strong immune system, the body has trouble fighting off diseases. With an early diagnosis and effective treatments, most people with HIV won't develop any AIDS-related illnesses and will live a near-normal life.

HIV infects and destroys certain white blood cells called CD4 cells. If too many CD4 cells are destroyed, the body can no longer defend itself against infection. The last stage of HIV infection is AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

What are the symptoms for HIV?

As HIV is a virus that attacks your immune system, symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, men and women can experience the same symptoms. No two people will likely experience the exact same symptoms; however, symptoms will follow this pattern:

  • First stage: Acute HIV Infection
  • Second stage: Chronic HIV Infection
  • Third stage: Development of AIDs

During the first stage, symptoms will typically last from 2-6 weeks and include:

  • Headache
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Aching muscles
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • A red rash that doesn't itch, usually on your torso
  • Fever

The second stage will result in symptoms disappearing and during this time, the virus replicates and begins to weaken the immune system. A person at this stage won’t feel or look sick, but the virus is still active. They can easily transmit the virus to others. This is why early testing, even for those who feel fine, is so important.

The final stage will see the HIV virus develop into AIDS, which is the last stage of the disease. A person at this stage has a severely damaged immune system, making them more susceptible to opportunistic infections.

A person with HIV might also experience the following stage 3 HIV symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Persistent diarrhoea
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Cough and shortness of breath
  • Recurring fever, chills, and night sweats
  • Rashes, sores, or lesions in the mouth or nose, on the genitals, or under the skin

How can I lower my risk for HIV?

Anyone can get HIV but you can take steps to protect yourself from HIV infection. The most important thing you can do it get tested on a regular basis, talk to your partner about HIV testing and get tested before you have sex. As always, you should practice safe sex, use condoms. If you do use drugs, use only sterile drug infection equipment and never share needles.

Is HIV curable?

There is no cure for HIV or AIDS yet, but treatment keeps the virus under control and means people can live a long and healthy life.

Can I test myself at home for HIV?

Yes, a range of LetsGetChecked test kits are available online at LloydsPharmacy.com, you can also get a test for HIV.