Too many people have been having unprotected sex and been asking me about the early symptoms of hiv and hiv tests that are available for confirmation of the infection. Here is the required information to all those who are looking for hiv symptoms at different stages. In this article I will try to cover hiv symptoms in men, hiv symptoms in women and the early signs or first symptoms of hiv that you can expect after having unprotected sex with an unfamiliar person.
Some websites state that “The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. You can’t rely on symptoms to tell whether you have HIV.” While that is true, in order to get affirmative results you need to pass through the window or incubation period of the virus and by the time you are ready to go for testing, HIV would have taken control over your body. We will also discuss how you can protect yourself from possible HIV infection.
What is the window period in HIV infection?
Once the virus enters a body, it takes time to replicate itself and spread across the body. The virus takes shelter in cells of the body including those of long living cells in the brain. Once the virus enters the brain cells (macrophages or microglial cells and astrocytes), they can even escape the immune system and antiretroviral medicines.
In stage 1, it takes 5 to 14 days for the virus to replicate itself fully inside the body after entering. Till then, the body doesn’t realise that it is infected and has to fight. So, nearly no symptoms are seen during this period except in a few people. During the second week after infection or later, flu like symptoms can show up including:
- Rashes across the body
- Sweat during night
- Muscle aches
- Weight loss
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
If you run a fever with sore throat or rashes within a couple of weeks after having unprotected sex, most likely your HIV test results can come positive.
It is true that many other viral infections can produce similar symptoms but don’t assume and relax. Go and get tested asap!
What to do if you run a fever or sore throat after having unprotected sex?
Stop googling! Of course, you landed in this article through Google but the more you google, the more you get panicked and stressed and more will be the symptoms that you will see that are similar to those of HIV even if you are actually negative.
Then pick a good HIV specialist near you and see him/her and then get tested and get the results examined by your doctor. If it has been less than 72 hours from the time of having unprotected sex, you may be put on PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) therapy. This can curb virus replication in the initial stages and help you remain HIV negative.
Stage 2 – Clinical Latency, a chronic stage
This period starts after a couple of months to 6 months post infection. During this time, the virus replication slows down and your body continues to fight the virus. You can get the viral load present in your blood at this time.
A high viral load indicates that the replication is considerably faster and your body is not able to kill the virus. A low viral load indicates a better immune system and this can help you live longer in better health. If you are positive, you must adhere to your doctor’s prescription to keep the viral load low if not ‘undetectable’. As long as the viral load is undetectable and you are on your antiretroviral medicines, you may not transmit the virus to your healthy partner. However, it is your responsibility to inform your partner about your HIV status and wear a condom or keep a barrier.
Stage 3 – AIDS
Full form of AIDS – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Getting infected with HIV is only an infection stage. As the virus continues to thrive in your body and your immune system is fighting a losing battle, severe symptoms can be seen. Such symptoms include:
- Rapid weight loss (more than 10% of your body weight will be gone in no time for no reason)
- Recurring fever and profuse night sweating
- Severe swelling and pain at lymph nodes (under the arms, near the groin and neck particularly)
- Sores and rashes on the body
- Memory loss, depression and other neurological disorders etc.
If you are regularly taking your HIV medicines, chances of getting into the AIDS stage are lower and will be delayed.
What should you do if you have had unprotected sex?
If it is less than 72 hours, see a good HIV specialist and get tested. He/she may suggest you to go for PEP Therapy which can save you from becoming a HIV positive person.
What should you do if you are sexually active and often indulge in risky sexual behaviour?
See a good HIV specialist near you and take PrEP therapy. Pre Exposure Prophylaxis is for those risk takers and sexually active people who want to stay safe from HIV infection but still want to involve in unprotected sex with unfamiliar people.
You are tested HIV positive, now what?
Don’t lose hope. Vaccine trials for HIV are in progress. Continue to take antiretroviral medicines and who knows, one fine day, a cure may come out. Be responsible and don’t spread the infection to healthy people, always use a condom or barrier.