HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) refers to the virus causing HIV infection. The symptoms may vary from individual to individual and sometimes one may not experience any symptoms for years. Without treatment, HIV destroys the infection-fighting CD4 cells of the immune system and eventually leads to AIDS.
Stages associated with AIDS:
There are three stages of HIV infection-
Stage 1- Acute primary infection
Within two to four weeks after becoming infected with HIV, one may have flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, body rash, sore throat, swollen glands, headache, upset stomach, joint aches and muscle pain. During this phase, HIV virus multiplies rapidly and spreads throughout the body. So the levels of virus in your blood system are very high at this stage.
Stage 2- Chronic HIV infection (asymptomatic stage/clinical latency)
During this second stage, most people don’t have symptoms but can pass HIV on to others. This is because the HIV continues to multiply in the body but at very low levels, infects new cells and makes copies of itself. Infected individuals are often not even aware that they are carrying the virus. This stage can last 10 years or more. As the immune system becomes compromised, one becomes vulnerable to other infections. At this stage, medications can help in fighting HIV, build up the immune system, and prevent the spreading of the virus. If not treated, the chronic stage usually progresses to AIDS in around 10 years or so.
It is the final and most severe stage of HIV infection. By this time the immune system has been severely damaged by the virus and the body is unable to fight against the opportunistic infections. Diagnosis of AIDS is made in people who have a CD4 count of less Than 200 cells/mm3 or if they have certain opportunistic infections. The normal CD4 count of a healthy person ranges between 500 to 1600 cells/ mm 3 .Symptoms that you may have during this time can include weight loss, chronic diarrhea, night sweats, fever, persistent cough, mouth and skin problems, regular infections and other serious illnesses.People with AIDS who don’t take medication only survive about 3 years. But with the right treatmen tone can prevent HIV from advancing to AIDS, reduce the risk of HIV transmission and help people with HIV live a longer and healthier life.