The first symptoms of infection with the AIDS virus include general malaise, fever, dry cough and sore throat, often mimicking the symptoms of a common cold and lasting for approximately 14 days. They may appear 3 to 6 weeks after initial contamination with HIV.
Contamination usually occurs because of risky behavior, where there was intimate contact without a condom or the sharing of needles contaminated with HIV, for example. The test to detect the virus should be done 40 to 60 days after any risky behavior, because the test may not detect the virus in the blood before that period.
Main symptoms of AIDS
The main symptoms of AIDS only appear if the person doesn’t get any treatment against the virus and can occur about 8 to 10 years after being infected with HIV or in certain situations where the immune system is weak. These symptoms can be:
- Persistent fever;
- Prolonged dry cough and scratchy throat;
- Night sweats;
- Swollen lymph glands for more than 3 months;
- Headache and difficulty in concentrating;
- Pain in the muscles and joints;
- Tiredness, fatigue and loss of energy;
- Fast weight loss;
- Oral or genital candidiasis that doesn’t go away;
- Diarrhea for more than 1 month, nausea and vomiting;
- Reddish spots or sores on the skin.
The symptoms mentioned above usually occur when the HIV virus is present in the body in large amounts and the defense cell count is very low compared to a healthy adult. Opportunistic infections, such as viral hepatitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia or toxoplasmosis, usually also develop at this stage of the disease when there are symptoms, because the immune system is weakened.
The person may, however, have symptoms that go undetected, such as low fever and malaise about 2 weeks after coming into contact with the HIV virus.
How do I know if I am HIV-positive?
To find out if you have been infected with the HIV virus, first you should see whether or not you have had any risky behavior, such as unprotected intimate contact or shared syringes, and be aware of symptoms such as fever, general malaise, sore throat and dry cough.
You should get a blood test done 40 to 60 days after any risky behavior to find out if you have HIV, then repeat the test after 3 months and again after 6 months, because even if you don’t show symptoms, you may have been infected with the virus.
Treatment for AIDS
AIDS is incurable and so life-long treatment of the patient is necessary. The main goal of treatment is to strengthen the immune system and fight the virus, controlling and reducing the amount of it in the blood.
Ideally, you should start HIV treatment before it develops into AIDS. This treatment can be done with a cocktail of different medications such as Efavirenz, Lamivudine and Tenofovir which are provided free of charge by the government, as are the examinations needed to assess the progression of the disease and the viral load.