HIV/AIDS and other STD’s: Early Symptoms and Treatment Options, Help is Available

Early detection of HIV and other STD’s is essential to survival, as these diseases often give only early clues to impairment of your immune system, and then aren’t noticeable until years later, often times after it is too late.

HIV symptoms develop shortly after infection, if at all, taking up to ten years or more to show. By then the patient usually has the AIDS virus, an auto-immune affliction, much harder to treat than HIV.

That is why early detection is most important, because sometimes there are no apparent symptoms. The general idea is, if you’ve had unprotected sex, or participated in risky sexual behavior recently, get tested.

We have provided an informational link where you can get tested in your area, nationwide, for little or no cost to you, at the bottom of this page.

Here are the general symptoms of HIV, and usually they are experienced between 2 weeks and 3 months after the initial infection. The symptoms are described as “the worst flu ever.” This primary HIV infection is termed acute retroviral syndrome (ARS) and those flu like symptoms are your body’s universal acknowledgment to the HIV infection. In some cases, it may take up to 3 months for this symptomology to appear.

Flu-like symptoms are described as:

• Fever
• Chills
• Night Sweats
• Rash
• Muscle Aches and Pains
• Sore Throat
• Swollen Lymph Nodes
• Mouth Ulcers
• Overall Fatigue

Acute Infection, Clinical Latency, and Progression to AIDS

Many people who are HIV positive never develop the symptoms of HIV, only feeling sick as they develop the AIDS virus. And sometimes these HIV positive patients feel sick and then feel better, for extended periods of time, never realizing the infection has taken hold of their body.

While the virus itself can sometimes cause people to feel sick, most of the severe symptoms and illnesses of the HIV disease come from the opportunistic infections that attack a damaged immune system. It is important to remember that some symptoms of HIV infection are similar to symptoms of many other common illnesses, such as the flu, or respiratory or gastrointestinal infections.

After the acute stage of HIV infection, the disease moves into a stage called clinical latency. This period is sometimes called asymptomatic HIV infection or chronic HIV infection. During this phase, HIV reproduces at very low levels, although it is still active. You may be able to maintain an undetectable viral load and a healthy CD4 cell count without the use of medication during the earlier years of this phase. You may not have symptoms or opportunistic infections. This period can last up to 8 years or longer.

Some people progress through this phase faster than others. It is important to remember that you are still able to transmit HIV to others during this phase. Toward the middle and end of this period, your viral load begins to rise and your CD4 cell count begins to drop. As this happens, you may begin to have constitutional symptoms of HIV as the virus levels increase in your body.

As the number of your CD4 cells begins to fall below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (200 cells/mm3), you will be diagnosed as having AIDS. (Normal CD4 counts are between 500 and 1,600 cells/mm3.) This is the stage of infection that occurs when your immune system is badly damaged and you become vulnerable to opportunistic infections. Without treatment, people who are diagnosed with AIDS typically survive about 3 years. Once someone has a dangerous opportunistic infection, life-expectancy falls to about 1 year.

Some other topics for you and your partner to examine and think about, including causes and behavior that can and cannot transmit the HIV/AIDS virus.

AIDS is the sixth leading cause of death among people ages 25 – 44 in the United States, down from number one in 1995. Millions of people around the world are living with HIV/AIDS.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes AIDS. The virus attacks the immune system and leaves the body vulnerable to a variety of life-threatening infections and cancers.

Common bacteria, yeast, parasites, and viruses that usually do not cause serious disease in people with healthy immune systems can cause fatal illnesses in patients with AIDS.
HIV has been found in saliva, tears, nervous system tissue and spinal fluid, blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. However, only blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk have been shown to transmit infection to others.

The virus can be spread:

• Through sexual contact — including oral, vaginal, and anal sex
• Through blood — via blood transfusions (now extremely rare in the U.S.) or needle sharing
• From mother to child — a pregnant woman can transmit the virus to her fetus through their shared blood circulation, or a nursing mother can transmit it to her baby in her breast milk

Other methods of spreading the virus are rare and include accidental needle injury, artificial insemination with infected donated semen, and organ transplantation with infected organs.

HIV infection cannot spread by:

• Casual contact such as hugging
• Mosquitoes
• Participation in sports
• Touching items that were touched by a person infected with the virus

AIDS and blood or organ donation:

• AIDS cannot be transmitted to a person who DONATES blood or organs. People who donate organs are never in direct contact with people who receive them. Likewise, a person who donates blood is never in contact with the person receiving it. In all these procedures, sterile needles and instruments are used.

• However, HIV can be transmitted to a person RECEIVING blood or organs from an infected donor. To reduce this risk, blood banks and organ donor programs screen donors, blood, and tissues thoroughly.

People at highest risk for getting HIV include:

• Intravenous drug users who share needles
• Infants born to mothers with HIV who didn’t receive HIV therapy during pregnancy
• People engaging in unprotected sex, especially with people who have other high-risk behaviors, are HIV-positive, or have AIDS
• People who received blood transfusions or clotting products between 1977 and 1985 (before screening for the virus became standard practice)
• Sexual partners of those who participate in high-risk activities (such as injection drug use or anal sex)

In conclusion, if you are not engaging in risky sexual activity, don’t start, and if you have or have had unprotected sex recently, get tested, the life you save may be your own.

World AIDS day is December 1st 2012, and is a chance for all those infected with this deadly disease, all the family and friends of the deceased, and anyone else that want information on the HIV/AIDS virus to gat together and have a frank and open discussion on the topic.

Get informed. Get tested.

Article by Jim Donahue

Prevention & Service

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