HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is responsible for causing AIDS (Auto-Immune Deficiency Syndrome). If you have contracted HIV infection, finding its early symptoms can help you slow the progression of disease down, while manage to control the disease efficiently.
Acute Retroviral Syndrome
Around 40% to 90% people suffer from acute retroviral syndrome (ARS) in the first few months after contracting HIV. However, these symptoms do not help in determining if you have HIV-AIDS as they resemble respiratory, gastrointestinal or general flu infection. On the other hand, many patients do not show any signs or symptoms.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
A lot of individuals develop early symptoms of swollen lymph nodes, a condition termed as persistent generalized lymphadenopathy (Caponetti & Pantanowitz, 2008). If a patient has lymph nodes that are more than 1cm in diameter, and have been swollen at more than two sites for more than three months, then there is a high chance of HIV infection.
Herpes Simplex Infection
Another common early symptom of HIV infection is the manifestation of oral and dermatological infections (Hengge, et al., 2006). Herpes and thrush can appear in these individuals. While both infections are not uncommon to appear on their own, it is their chronic levels, severity and increased frequency that makes it questionable. Moreover, if these symptoms appear along with other symptoms discussed before, then the probability of HIV infection is very high. Another strong symptom for AIDS infection is the hairy leucoplakia.
Other Common Symptoms
Common symptoms of HIV infection can be non-specific and include diarrhoea, weight loss, malaise, night sweats and fever. If body temperature remains more than normal for more than a month, and the individual suffers from a weight loss of 10% or more, then the symptoms are AIDS-defining. AIDS also affects individuals neurologically. Patients with AIDS will also show slow thinking levels, decreased concentration levels, and painful or numb feet.
Other Opportunistic Infections
As soon as the patient’s immune system becomes compromised, all kinds of infections find an opportunity to invade the patient’s body. Strong infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis become common. At this stage, lymphocyte count test can help determine if these diseases are posing any possibility of the HIV infection. However, these symptoms are unpredictable. In some patients they may show up early, while in some, they may stay hidden for years.
A lot of patients do not experience any kind of symptoms or clinical signs for a long period of time. Even though they may be infected, all their physical examinations show regular results. These individuals are said to have asymptomatic infection, often, not giving any signs until the later stage (Lundgren, et al., 2015). In such individuals, extra precautionary care is supposed to be taken. A complete patient history can help determine the probability of disease in such cases, so that it may help save his life.
Detailed Clinical History
Regardless of the symptoms, it is best to study the detailed clinical history of existing patients. Normal individuals should also avoid these behaviours on a regular basis, if they want to avoid contracting the HIV virus, (this link provides an interesting infographic on the historical timeline of HIV). Check if the patient has ever had a blood transplant, used a drug through an IV syringe, indulged in careless sexual contact etc. This can help determine whether the patient may or may not be at risk of HIV disease.
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, or if you feel that you’ve had an abnormal sexual counter recently in the last few weeks, it is best to get a clinical test such as ELISA. A lot of facilities also provide these tests for free. Better be safe than sorry.
Caponetti, G. & Pantanowitz, L., 2008. HIV-associated lymphadenopathy. Ear, nose, & throat journal, 87(7), pp. 374-75.
Hengge, U. R., Mota, R. & Marini, A., 2006. Frequent and rare dermatological diseases in HIV patients. Der Hautarzt; Zeitschrift für Dermatologie, Venerologie, und verwandte Gebiete, 57(11), p. 975.
Lundgren, J. D. et al., 2015. Initiation of Antiretroviral Therapy in Early Asymptomatic HIV Infection. The New England journal of medicine, 373(9), p. 795.
Doctor Felix. 2015. HIV Home Test. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.drfelix.co.uk/treatment/hiv-home-test/. [Accessed 25 February 16].