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HIV/AIDS Symptoms - Do I Have It?

What is HIV?  

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes the condition known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).

The distinction is subtle, but is there. A person that is infected with the HIV virus may not have any symptoms of the infection. Someone with AIDS is a person who has both the virus and the associated complications.

HIV is a virus that destroys cells in the body's immune system. This takes time, and, as mentioned above, people may feel perfectly normal for years. Over time, however, once the body's immune system is weakened, it can make it very difficult for the body to fight off infections.

How do I get HIV/AIDS?

The HIV virus which is transmitted by either blood or sexual contact. This includes all forms of sex which include exposure to bodily fluids. It also includes blood transfusions, use of needles and other items which have come into contact with infected blood.

HIV/AIDS Symptoms

HIV and AIDS have a very broad range of symptoms. It can range from feeling fine to being critically ill. When someone gets HIV, they typically have symptoms early and late with a long period in the middle without any symptoms.

About 2-4 weeks after you first become infected with HIV, most people develop a "flu-like" illness. The symptoms can mimick the flu or other simple viral illnesses. As a result, it can easily be dismissed by patients and doctors alike.

Early symptoms can include: Fever, swollen glands, rash, joint and muscle aches, and nausea and vomitting.

These symptoms may last for a couple of weeks, and then go away completely. Most patients probably never give this much thought.

You can then be symptom-free for even 10 years or so, before you develop complications of a weakened immune system. These symptoms are more varied and include serious infections. People may develop weight loss, fevers, tiredness, and a host of other infections.

Getting Tested

Since the early symptoms are so unremarkable, many people may not know they are infected with HIV. This is why getting tested is important.

If you feel you are at high risk for the HIV infection, you should talk to your doctor about getting tested. High risk behaviors include anything that would bring you in contact with blood or body fluids of someone who might have been exposed to the virus.

You should know that it can take up to 6 months after first getting infected for the HIV test to be accurate. So, you may have to wait to get tested if you are concerned about recent behavior.

Why get Tested?

An ongoing myth is that there isn't anything that can be done for HIV or AIDS. This is simply not true. While, it is true there is no effective way to completely elminate the virus from a person, treatments have advanced significantly over the past 20 years.

HIV is becoming a long term disease that people can live with on the proper treatment.

The other important reason to know is so that you can prevent the spread of the virus to others.