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After initial exposure, when the HIV load peaks at 3-9 weeks, flu-like symptoms may be experienced, however, throughout the infection and during later stages the following symptoms can be experienced:
Often the HIV/AIDS disease is diagnosed at a later stage when the virus has spread extensively. However, due to increased campaigns for routine HIV screening, the infection is often diagnosed earlier. The sooner medication is started the better the outcome.
In primary infection, the patient suffers from the flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, cough, sore throat, fatigue, body ache, etc. for the short duration. These symptoms usually occur within 1 – 2 months of the infection. Many recipients of the HIV virus do not suffer from any of these symptoms which make the primary infection more difficult to detect.
The second stage starts once the primary infection has spread into body’s immune system. This stage normally starts after 12 weeks of exposure. The immune cells produce antibodies to fight the HIV virus during this stage. This presence of antibody makes blood testing of HIV infection positive.
During the second stage, a patient may not feel any symptoms, however, the disease is in progress inside the body. This window period from time to exposure to time of infection may last for years. During this period, HIV virus keeps on killing body’s immune cells. Once the level of CD4+ cells decreases to a certain level, our body is exposed to the pathogens to attack. At this stage, symptoms of AIDS would start to appear. AIDS is defined by a CD4 count below 200.
AIDS syndrome occurs when the body’s immune helper T cells cannot combat routine pathogens and the disease starts to cause deterioration of health. Co-infection will occur and the virus can also destroy the nerve cells. There is also an increased chance of cancers like Kaposi’s sarcoma during this stage.