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HIV Infection and AIDS

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Signs and Symptoms

HIV initially causes an acute illness with non-specific, flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, sore throat, rash, and enlarged lymph nodes. Some people do not experience any noticeable symptoms. In most people, the initial symptoms go away after a few weeks. The only way to be sure whether a person is infected is through HIV testing.

If HIV is not diagnosed early and treated, it infects and kills more CD4 T-cells, decreasing their numbers. The affected person's immune system may eventually become weakened to the extent that the person begins having signs and symptoms such as:

  • Persistently enlarged lymph nodes
  • Recurring fever 
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Profuse sweating, night sweats
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Rashes
  • Sores in the mouth or on the genitals or anus
  • Memory loss or difficulty concentrating

In children who are infected with HIV at or before birth, symptoms may emerge within a couple of years. Untreated children may have delayed development and be frequently ill. Pneumonia is common in children born with HIV.

If still left untreated, HIV can progress to AIDS, the most advanced stages of HIV infection. People diagnosed with AIDS may get life-threatening diseases called opportunistic infections caused by microbes such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites. These infections do not usually make healthy people sick.

Opportunistic infections common in people with AIDS cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Coughing and shortness of breath
  • Soaking night sweats
  • Shaking chills or a high fever for several weeks
  • Seizures and lack of coordination
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Mental symptoms such as confusion and forgetfulness
  • Severe and persistent diarrhea
  • Vision loss
  • Nausea, abdominal cramps, and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Severe headaches
  • Coma

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