Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection (cont.)
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Initial stage (acute retroviral syndrome)
Acute retroviral syndrome is an illness with symptoms like mononucleosis. It often develops within a few days of infection, but it may occur several weeks after the person is infected. Symptoms may include:
These first symptoms can range from mild to severe and usually disappear on their own after 2 to 3 weeks. But many people do not have symptoms or they have mild symptoms that they do not notice at this stage.
It may take years for HIV symptoms to develop. But even though no symptoms are present, the virus is multiplying (or making copies of itself) in the body during this time. HIV multiplies so quickly that the immune system cannot destroy the virus. After years of fighting HIV, the immune system starts to weaken.
A doctor may suspect HIV if symptoms persist or if a cause of the symptoms (such as the flu) cannot be identified. HIV may also be suspected when several of the following symptoms are present:
Also, HIV may be suspected when a woman has at least one of the following:
AIDS occurs during the last stage of infection with HIV. If HIV goes untreated, AIDS develops in most people within 10 to 12 years after the initial infection. With treatment for HIV, the progression to AIDS may be delayed or prevented.
After your immune system starts to weaken, you are more likely to develop certain infections or illnesses, called opportunistic infections. Examples include some types of pneumonia or cancer that are more common when you have a weakened immune system.
A small number of people who are infected with HIV are rapid progressors. They develop AIDS within a few years if they do not receive treatment. It is not known why the infection progresses faster in these people.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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Resources for Staying Well
- HIV-AIDS: Myths and Facts
- Understanding The Symptoms of AIDS/HIV
- The Top 10 Myths and Misconceptions About HIV and AIDS