Are there any early symptoms of HIV?
Around a week to ten days after HIV infection takes place, symptoms can occur which are the result of the body reacting to HIV infection (clinically referred to as ‘seroconversion’).
The most common symptoms of recent HIV infection are severe flu-like symptoms, including a sore throat and fever, and a rash on the chest. Other symptoms can include fatigue, nausea and diarrhoea.
Around 70-90% of people recently infected with HIV experience these symptoms, and they are unusual in otherwise healthy people so should indicate the need for an HIV test if they occur within six weeks of sex without a condom (especially with a new or casual partner).
After two to three weeks these symptoms will disappear, and even if you see a doctor they may fail to recognise the signs of early HIV infection. A person with HIV may then live for many years without any further symptoms or indications that they are HIV positive.
What should I do if I experience these symptoms?
If you experience these symptoms of early HIV infection and you have recently put yourself at risk (had sex without a condom or shared injecting needles or drug equipment) then you should have an HIV test.
Are there any other symptoms of HIV infection?
The first stage is recent infection which is discussed above. The second stage of HIV infection is the 'asymptomatic' stage, and as the name suggests there are generally no symptoms, often lasting for as long as ten years.
The third stage of HIV infection is the symptomatic stage, where the body's immune system has become so damaged that it becomes susceptible to a range of 'opportunistic' infections that would normally be prevented by the body's natural defences ('opportunistic' means the infections take advantage of the weakened immune system in a way they wouldn't normally be able to in an otherwise healthy person). These infections include bacterial diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and blood poisoning, fungal diseases such as oral thrush, and viral diseases.
An AIDS diagnosis takes place at such a late stage of infection when one or more of the most commonly experienced illnesses linked to HIV occurs (known as an AIDS-defining illness).
Highly effective HIV medication will prevent the HIV infection from damaging the immune system so severely and can stop opportunistic infections or AIDS-defining illnesses.
If I don’t have any symptoms, can I assume I don’t have HIV?
DID YOU KNOW?
NAT has provided training for GP's so they better recognise the early symptoms of HIV and recommend a test.