Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Many people with HIV do not know they are infected. In the United States, it is likely that 20% of HIV-positive individuals are unaware of their infection. HIV infection progresses in different stages.
Many people do not develop symptoms after they first are infected with HIV. Others will have signs and symptoms in the early stage of HIV infection, referred to as primary or acute HIV infection. The most common symptoms are similar to a flu-like illness within several days to weeks after exposure to the virus. Early HIV symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, rash, sore throat, and enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. A characteristic feature of primary HIV infection is open sores or ulcers in the mouth. These symptoms usually disappear within a few weeks. After that, the person feels normal and has no symptoms. This asymptomatic phase often lasts for years.
The progression of disease varies widely among individuals. This stage of
HIV infection may last from a few months to more than 10 years.
During this period, the virus continues to multiply actively and infects and
kills the cells of the immune system.
The virus destroys the cells that are the primary infection fighters, a type
of white blood cell called CD4 cells.
Even though the person has no symptoms, he or she is contagious and can pass HIV to others through the routes listed above.
AIDS is the later stage of HIV infection, when the body begins losing its
ability to fight infections. Once the CD4 cell count falls low enough, an
infected person is said to have AIDS. Sometimes, the diagnosis of AIDS is made
because the person has unusual infections or cancers that show how weak the
immune system is.
The infections that happen with AIDS are called opportunistic infections
because they take advantage of the opportunity to infect a weakened host. A person diagnosed with AIDS may need to be on antibiotic prophylaxis to prevent opportunistic infections from occurring. The
infections include (but are not limited to)
pneumonia caused by Pneumocystis,
which causes wheezing or dry cough;