Symptoms and Signs of HIV Symptoms, Signs, and Diagnosis

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Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on HIV Symptoms, Signs, and Diagnosis

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) symptoms may develop over years and may develop as follows: during the first few weeks after infection, some people have no symptoms but others may develop flu-like symptoms that resolve. Possibly years later (incubation period ranges from a few months to 10 years), the person’s immune system becomes increasingly unable to respond to protect the body from infections and abnormally developing cells (cancer cells, for example). Once the patient develops a low CD4 cell count (<200 cells/mm3) or any one of a large number of complications (opportunistic infections, Kaposi’s sarcoma, for example), HIV becomes the cause of AIDS (acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).

The cause of the HIV signs and symptoms is the HIV’s slow attack on the patient’s immune system that, if untreated, can render it unable to effectively fight off challenges by infectious organisms and against any abnormal cells that may become cancerous. HIV retroviruses can infect humans when a person comes in contact with an infected individual’s vagina, anal area, mouth, eyes, skin break, IV (sharing drug needles); the infected mother may transmit HIV to the newborn. Unfortunately, HIV may be transmitted to others during the long incubation period; many infected individuals do not know they are infected during this time and unknowingly spread the virus to others.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.