Anonymous on August 12, 2011

What are common symptoms of HIV/AIDS?

If you get HIV/AIDS, what is the most common thing you feel?

answered by Daniel Perlman, MD, MBA on August 12, 2011

You asked a very thoughtful question. First, let’s talk about HIV symptoms

Not every person with HIV will show symptoms right away. In some people, it can take more than 10 years for signs or symptoms of HIV to show up. This is why it’s important to get tested regularly for HIV and other STDs…it the only way to know for sure if you have a sexually transmitted infection.
If you do show HIV symptoms in the first month, they may include:
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A rash on your stomach, arms, legs or face
  • Swollen lymph glands

Later, HIV-infected people may also experience…various mild infections, diarrhea, weight loss, chronic coughing and difficulty breathing, skin rashes, sores, fatigue, joint pain, gum disease, fungal infections, dementia, or even certain types of cancer.

Finding out if you have HIV early through HIV testing, and getting treatment can help slow or stop many of these symptoms. HIV treatment can also often keep HIV-positive people from getting AIDS. This is why it’s so critical to know your HIV status. People who are sexually active should get tested every year; and people with multiple partners should get tested every six months.

What about AIDS? If HIV goes untreated, it can turn into AIDS. AIDS may have similar symptoms to HIV –including fever, nausea, rashes and night sweats – as well as impaired vision and dementia.

As for emotions, people understandably react in a variety of ways when they find out that they are HIV-positive. The good news is that, with today’s HIV treatments, people infected with the virus are living longer, healthier lives. HIV is not a death sentence, and not every HIV-positive person will get AIDS.

Again, if you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, I encourage you to get tested. The sooner HIV is detected, the more treatment can help. For the most accurate results, get tested at least three months after you’ve been exposed to the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV antibody tests are 97% accurate at three months post-exposure.

For more information about HIV symptoms, testing and treatment, visit our Expert Guide to HIV.

Thank you for your question, and I wish you good luck and good health.

Daniel Perlman, MD, MBA

Dr. Perlman is a Colorado-based infectious disease specialist (including HIV and other STDs) in private practice at Greater Denver Infectious Diseases. Additionally, he is Assistant Clinical Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Dr. Perlman was educated at theUniversity of Maryland School of Medicine, and completed his residency in internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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