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Stages of HIV Infection
Acute Infection: Early symptoms of HIV, (one to four weeks) can mimic that of mononucleosis-like symptoms. Symptoms include, swelling of the lymph nodes, headache, fever, loss of appetite, sweating, and sore throat. Often times this can be mistaken as having the flu or another viral-type infection. Some people may develop skin rashes on the chest, abdomen and/or back.
Seroconversion: Symptoms of HIV in this second stage of infection usually occur anytime after four weeks. Seroconversion is the point at which antibodies to HIV can be detected. Eventually the body will produce enough antibodies specific for the HIV virus; white blood cells called B lymphocytes, in which a blood test will reveal that a person has been infected by the HIV virus. Often times, people will lead a fairly healthy period where no symptoms are present. However, if the person is aware of a positive blood test, they may have psychological symptoms of depression and anxiety about the future. It can be up to five years before a person develops any physical signs. This time period is dependent on many factors. Chiefly, it is the person's large amount of CD-4 cells (helper cells to the immune system, helping to fight viruses). In addition, age and the general health condition of the person can also play a role. An immune system that has been trying to battle the HIV infection eventually weakens and will make the person more susceptible to opportunistic infections.
As the immune system becomes increasingly compromised, the body is not able to fight off infections that a normal intact immune system could suppress. Early symptoms occur usually when a person has a CD-4 count of 300 or below, but can happen at even higher CD-4 counts. The most common are Thrush, Herpes Zoster (shingles), Herpes Simplex, Oral Hairy Leukoplakia, Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura and Pneumococcal Pneumonia.
Later Stage AIDS and Opportunistic Infections: As the immune system becomes increasingly compromised, the body is not able to fight off more serious infections that a normal intact immune system could suppress. Some of these infections can be life threatening in a person with AIDS and are usually the cause of death in the AIDS patients. The current definition of someone in late stage AIDS is when their CD-4 count dips below 200. Opportunistic infections are infections that a normal intact immune system can fight off, but could prove to be life threatening to a immuno-compromised person. The two most common opportunistic infections are Pneumocystic Pneumonia and Kaposi's Sarcoma. Others include: Tuberculosis, Mycobacterium Avium Complex, HIV-Related Lymphoma, Toxoplasmosis Encephalitis, Cytomegalovirus Infection, Cryptocococcosis, and Cryptosporidiosis.