Symptoms of HIV infection

Information on the initial symptoms of HIV infection and the opportunistic illnesses which may take hold should HIV develop into category B HIV infection or full-blown AIDS.

Early symptoms of HIV infection

The first symptoms of HIV infection can occur when a person is first infected with the virus. There may be a cold- or flu-like illness, called a sero-conversion illness. This is the body’s response to the HIV infection, as the immune symptom attempts to destroy the virus.

It is highly likely that people will ignore the symptoms. They’ll run a fever and feel rundown and tired with aching muscles. Their lymph glands might also become swollen. They’ll think they have the flu or a cold.

The symptoms will then pass and the person will feel healthy again. This is the stage known as asymptomatic HIV infection, or category A HIV.

They may remain well for years – though this does not mean that they will not catch the usual illnesses anyone is susceptible to. It is only when an HIV+ person contracts an illness which is a result of HIV that he or she is said to have progressed to symptomatic, or category B, HIV infection.

Opportunistic illnesses

The most common AIDS-defining illnesses, which take advantage of the failure of the immune system, are:

· Pneumonia. This was the main cause of death from AIDS in the 1990s in Britain.

· Kaposi’s sarcoma. This is a type of cancer which mainly affects the skin and can also affect the gut, the lungs and the lymph nodes. This was the main cause of death in the 1980s.

· Cytomegalovirus. This damages the retina in the eye and can cause weight loss, fever, ulcers and diarrhea.

· Tuberculosis. This damages the lungs and the brain.

· Mycobacterium avium intracellulare (MAI). This causes night sweats, severe anaemia, chronic diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight loss.

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