Pennsylvainia : HIV Prevention Strategies

IHPCP

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). There is currently no effective cure. Once people get HIV, they have it for life.

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HIV Symptoms

It can take up to four weeks after contracting HIV to actually develop symptoms, though some people don’t show symptoms for years. Unfortunately, most of the symptoms those with HIV may see are similar to more common health issues, like the flu, the common cold, and strep throat, so many people mistake the virus for a less serious problem. Unfortunately, during this time you can still spread the virus. That’s why it’s best to get tested regularly if you’re at risk for HIV and especially if you have the following symptoms:

Fever

  • One of the first and most common symptoms you’ll experience if you have HIV is a low-grade fever of up to 100.8 degrees. It may last for a few days up to a few weeks, and it’s easy to mistake it for any other type of infection that can lead to a fever. That’s why many people assume they have the flu when they first develop HIV symptoms.

Night Sweats

  • If you’ve ever had a fever, you know that it’s often accompanied by night sweats. That’s the case for HIV too. Be sure to let your doctor know that may be at risk for HIV if you decide to have these symptoms checked out. He or she may even misdiagnose your symptoms as the flu or a cold.

Fatigue

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  • If you notice a sudden lack of energy, it could be a sign of any number of health issues, ranging from the flu to anemia. But if it comes on along with the other symptoms on this list, it’s best to get it checked out by a doctor. The earlier you find out you have HIV, the better your long-term outcome.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

  • Swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the neck, are extremely common during the early days of experiencing HIV symptoms. You may even experience a sore throat with the swelling. If you have this symptom, and you suspect HIV, stop all sexual contact until you’ve been tested by a doctor.

Headache

  • If you suffer from headaches regularly, this is one symptom of early HIV that’s easy to dismiss, but if it lasts for a few days or comes and goes over the course of a couple of weeks, you may want to have it checked out. A headache is often accompanied by fatigue and shortness of breath, both of which are signs of your immune system fighting the illness.

Rash

  • One way to help distinguish potential HIV from health issues like the flu is a rash. Many people who are in the early stage of HIV experience a rash, bumps, or soreness with their fever, fatigue, headache, and other flu-like symptoms. You may also find that sores appear around the mouth, anus, and genitals.

Aching Muscles and Joints

  • If you’ve ever had the flu or worked out too hard, you know how badly aching muscles and joints can affect your day-to-day life. Early HIV symptoms can lead to the same type of bodily pain. Combined with fatigue, you may find that you don’t feel much like doing anything but lying around and resting.

Mouth Ulcers

  • Though it usually starts with a rash, people with HIV often have many skin problems. Developing mouth ulcers is one of them. Located on the lips, cheeks, tongue or gums, these ulcers could be a sign of other types of viruses and even some forms of cancer. If you have mouth ulcers that last for more than a week, it’s best to see a doctor.

Recurring Infections

  • When you have HIV, your immune system weakens, which makes it harder to fight off infections. Yeast infection, eye infections, UTIs, pneumonia — any of these may come on easily and stick around for a while. Even worse, you may find that you have recurring infections. People with HIV are especially prone to infections of the brain, kidneys, eyes, lungs, skin, and digestive system.

Weight Loss

  • You won’t lose weight during the initial stages of HIV, so if your symptoms are accompanied by weight loss, it may be a sign that the virus is progressing into the next stages. Other symptoms of progression are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, trouble swallowing, chronic cough, severe headaches, trouble breathing, and extreme muscle aches.

Prevention

Educate yourself. Know the basics:

  • HIV is spread by intimate contact with semen, pre-seminal fluid, blood, vaginal fluid, rectal fluid, and breast milk.
  • HIV is mainly spread through anal sex, vaginal sex, and shared needles.
  • HIV can also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy or breastfeeding, or through occupational exposure (such as a needlestick injury).
  • HIV cannot be spread by touching, kissing, mosquitos, shared utensils, toilet sinks, drinking fountains, spitting, or touching body fluids.
  • Use condoms
  • Prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV
  • Don’t share needles
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