What Are The Initial Signs
and Symptoms of HIV Infections
The signs of symptoms of AIDS or HIV are different depending on what stage the infection is in. When a person
is first infected they may have flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes but recover quickly. This flu-like
ickness may occur two to six weeks after being infected and is not always associated with
the possibility of HIV infection. Even if you do not have any of these symptoms until years later, you can
still infect other people with the virus.
Once your body is invaded with the HIV or AIDS virus, your immune system is under attack. Even though you
may not be having any symptoms, you can still pass the disease on to another person. Meanwhile, even if you
are symptom free, your cells that coordinate your immune system are slowly being destroyed. You can remain
this way for as many as ten years but during that time you will begin it experience more frequent infections as
your immune cells are destroyed. You may experience chronic symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss, shortness
of breath, cough, fever, and unexplained weight loss.
More serious symptoms develop ten or more years after the first infection. These symptoms signal the
patient has developed AIDS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention redefined AIDS to mean the
presence of HIV infection or by a positive HIV-antibody test and at least one other symptom.
• If your CD4 lymphocyte count is below 200 this is considered AIDS
• If you get an infection you normally would only get because your immune system is impaired
Once AIDS has developed you will begin showing more serious signs that your immune system has been seriously
damaged. You may wake up with night sweats, have the chills but have a fever higher than 100 degrees
Fahrenheit for several weeks, or you may have a dry cough and shortness of breath. If you have white spots on
your skin or unusual sores on your tongue or in your mouth, it is a sign of the development of AIDS.
You may experience blurred vision, headaches and unexplained weight loss.
Did You Know?
There are some ways you cannot get AIDS! Many of these myths persisted for years
after scientists proved AIDS could not be transferred in these ways.
You cannot get AIDS from food or water. Again, it is only transferred by sexual
contact or contact with body fluids of an individual who has HIV or AIDS. Yes, I know there was a
myth flying around you could get AIDS by getting a mosquito bite, but again this is not true.
Insects and animals cannot transfer the virus to a human. It is fine to adopt a pet
from a person who has AIDS. Giving blood cannot give you AIDS. The danger is in receiving tainted
blood that has been donated by someone who has AIDS.
Since 1985, this has been rare because all donated blood is run through tests to
insure it is not infected with HIV. It is safe to give blood because all medical equipment used is
sterilized and clean.
Last, you cannot get AIDS from having every-day contact with a person suffering
from AIDS. Shaking hands, giving a hug, or being in the same room with an AIDS patient will not
cause you to be infected.
As the disease progresses through your body, these symptoms will get much worse. You are also at risk for
developing some cancers such as cervical cancer, lymphoma, and Kaposi’s sarcoma. Newer and improved
treatments have reduced the risk of dying of these cancer’s but it is considered a serious complication if you
should develop one of them.
The symptoms in children with HIV are:
• Failure to gain weight
• Failure to grow normally
• At risk for the common infections that affect adults
• Severe cases of ordinary children’s diseases including pneumonia, ear infections, and tonsillitis
Researchers are looking into new classes of AIDS drugs that will prevent the virus
from getting into the cells.
Instead of suppressing the virus from multiplying itself, it is a drug that will
stop the virus from reaching the healthy cells.
These medications can be safer and more effective but more testing and research
needs to be done before they are available.
Children who are born with the HIV virus are diagnosed at an early age and treatments can begin
immediately. Children in underdeveloped areas of the world are often orphans as well as born with HIV.
Many times their mother and father has already died of the effects of the disease. If they are alive, many
times they are too sick to take care of a child with the HIV virus.