The symptoms of AIDS or HIV are different depending on what stage the infection is in. When a person is first infected they may have flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes but recover quickly. This flu-like sickness may occur two to six weeks after being infected and is not always associated with the possibility of HIV infection. Even if you do not have any of these symptoms until years later, you can still infect other people with the virus.
Symptom-Free But Still Damaging
Once your body is invaded with the HIV or AIDS virus, your immune system is under attack. Even though you may not be having any symptoms, you can still pass the disease on to another person. Meanwhile, even if you are symptom free, your cells that coordinate your immune system are slowly being destroyed.
You can remain this way for as many as ten years but during that time you will begin it experience more frequent infections as your immune cells are destroyed. You may experience chronic symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss, shortness of breath, cough, fever, and unexplained weight loss.
Official Diagnostic Criteria
More serious symptoms develop ten or more years after the first infection. These symptoms signal the patient has developed AIDS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention redefined AIDS to mean the presence of HIV infection or by a positive HIV-antibody test and at least one other symptom.
- If your CD4 lymphocyte count is below 200 this is considered AIDS
- If you get an infection you normally would only get because your immune system is impaired
Once AIDS has developed you will begin showing more serious signs that your immune system has been seriously damaged. You may wake up with night sweats, have the chills but have a fever higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit for several weeks, or you may have a dry cough and shortness of breath.
If you have white spots on your skin or unusual sores on your tongue or in your mouth, it is a sign of the development of AIDS. You may experience blurred vision, headaches and unexplained weight loss.
As the disease progresses through your body, these symptoms will get much worse. You are also at risk for developing some cancers such as cervical cancer, lymphoma, and Kaposis sarcoma. Newer and improved treatments have reduced the risk of dying of these cancers but it is considered a serious complication if you should develop one of them.
The symptoms in children with HIV are:
- Failure to gain weight
- Failure to grow normally
- At risk for the common infections that affect adults
- Severe cases of ordinary children’s diseases including pneumonia, ear infections, and tonsillitis
Children who are born with the HIV virus are diagnosed at an early age and treatments can begin immediately. Children in underdeveloped areas of the world are often orphans as well as born with HIV.
Many times their mother and father has already died of the effects of the disease. If they are alive, many times they are too sick to take care of a child with the HIV virus.