What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s similar to other viruses, such as colds and the flu, with one important difference—the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means once a person has HIV, he or she has it for life.
HIV affects specific cells of the immune system (called CD4 cells). Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infection anymore.
There is no cure, but with proper medical care, the virus can be controlled.
What are the stages of HIV?
HIV is a progressive disease, meaning it advances or worsens over time. If a person is infected with HIV and doesn’t get treatment, it will eventually overwhelm his or her immune system and lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
The stages of HIV are:
· Acute (Severe) Infection—Occurs as early as 2 to 4 weeks after infection (but sometimes as long as 3 months later); some people report flu-like symptoms during this time, but others have no symptoms at all. People with HIV are very infectious during this time, meaning they can pass the disease on to others. Symptoms can include night sweats, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, rash, fatigue, muscle aches, and ulcers in the mouth.
· Clinical Latency (Dormancy or Inactivity)—After the initial infection, the virus becomes less active in the body, but is still present. This period can last up to 10 years (sometimes longer), and many people do not have any symptoms of HIV during the clinical latency (or dormant/inactive) period. However, they can still give the infection to others at this time.
· AIDS—This is the last stage of HIV infection; the person’s immune system is badly damaged and he or she becomes susceptible to opportunistic infections (illnesses that attack weakened immune systems). Symptoms can include diarrhea, night sweats, fatigue, fever, chills, vomiting, and severe weight loss.