What are symptoms of HIV?

HIV/AIDS Dictionary

HIV- Human Immune deficiency Virus
AIDS- Acquired Immune deficiency Syndrome
Antibodies- Cells produced by the body to fight infection.
CD4- Fighter cells/ immune cells
Antiretrovirals- Medication to slow the progress of the HI virus
STI- Sexually Transmitted Infection
Kaposi Sarcoma- Aids related cancer
Lesions- Injury to the living tissue of the body, usually as a result of disease or injury
ADC- Aids dementia complex
Adherence- Taking medication exactly as prescribed
Viral evolution- The change in the make-up of the virus. Influences ART
ART- Antiretroviral therapy
ARV- Antiretrovirals
VCT- Voluntary counseling and testing

Telephone numbers
to remember:

National AIDS Helpline: 0800 012 322
HIV Health Workers Hotline: 0800 212 506
AIDS Consortium: 011-403 0265
AIDS Law Project ALP: 011- 717 8600
National Association of people living with AIDS(NAPWA): 011-872 0975

Treatment Action Campaign (TAC):
Cape Town: 021-364-5489
Johannesburg: 011-403-2293
KZN: 031-304-3673
Eastern Cape: 043-760-0050

If you have been exposed to HIV and symptoms have begun to develop it is best to be tested for an HIV infection. HIV and symptoms are often confused with the symptoms of the more common illnesses like flu. HIV and its symptoms strike fear into the heart of many but the days of an HIV infection being a death sentence are over, meaning HIV and symptoms can be treated, thereby allowing the infected person to have a productive life and live to an advanced age.

The symptoms of HIV are similar to a number of other illnesses which means that the only definite way of determining whether you have an HIV infection is to do an HIV test. You can not tell if someone has HIV just by looking at them.

Click here to buy an HIV Home Test Kit for R119.

Initial symptoms of HIV

  • Fever/Night Sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Rash
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dry cough
  • During the later stages of HIV infection, usually when the infection has progressed towards AIDS, symptoms include opportunistic infections like pneumonia and fungal infections and HIV specific cancers like Kaposi Sarcoma.

    If you think that you have HIV, or if you are not sure, get tested now!!! There are many ways to get tested for HIV:

    Remember that the sooner you know your status, the sooner you can manage HIV. If you start managing the virus early, then you can still live a long healthy life.

    What is HIV?

    Human immune deficiency virus, a virus which enters the immune system and ravages it leaving the body without defence against opportunistic infections. It is possible that no symptoms may appear upon infection but the individual will still be able to transfer the virus to others if preventative steps are not followed.

    As the infection progresses, this could take any number of years, even without treatment, the body will acquire various illnesses. This is known as AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, a collection of illnesses.

    How do you get HIV?

    HIV is one of only a handful of infections which is entirely non-discriminatory, it can affect anybody regardless of race, gender, age, geographic location or the job you do.
    If you are sexually active you increase your risk of an HIV infection, especially if you have had more than one partner and do not use preventative methods like condoms.

    The most common form of HIV transmission is:

  • Sexual transmission
  • Mother to child transmission
  • Occupational exposure

  • People most at risk of acquiring an HIV infection are:

  • Anyone practicing unsafe sex
  • Drug users who inject their drugs with used needles
  • multiple sexual partners

    There are other less common instances in which infection can take place:

  • Deliberate infections
  • Transfusions of infected blood, although nowadays all blood is screened before use.
  • Occupational risk, for example a medical worker can be cut with a bloody scalpel or stabbed with a used needle.
  • Tattooing and body piercing where equipment is not sterile

  • How does an HIV test work?

    An HIV test reacts to the presence of HIV anti-bodies in the blood. The anti-bodies are preBlood drop sample to test for HIV antibodiessent as result of an infection, causing the immune system to work at defending the body.

    What is the Window Period?

    The window period is the time between the onset of an infection and the appearance of the first antibodies. The average window period is 3-4 weeks, however there are instances in which it can be longer, sometimes up to 8 weeks. This means that a second test should be done after another 3-4 weeks.

    What is CD4?

    CD4 + T helper cells are essentially white blood cells which are a vital part of the immune system. These cells are responsible for signaling an infection which will then mark an increase in the cells which fight or kill the infection or virus.
    If an HIV infection is left untreated the CD4 cells become depleted leaving the body open to any number of infections.
    HIV uses CD4 to gain a foothold on the immune system by altering proteins and cell structure making it possible for the virus to fuse with the cell membrane.

    Counting of CD4 or T cells and what it means

    Counting the CD4 cells is a reliable way to measure the condition of the immune system. The CD4 count of a healthy immune system, in a HIV negative person is generally between 500 and 1500cells per cubic mm. When the count falls to 350cells per cubic mm treatment and medication become necessary.

    In the USA a CD4 cell count below 200 is no longer as being an HIV infection but as AIDS. In South Africa once a CD4 reaches 350 or less the government will provide access to ARV treatment.

    The CD4 count should be monitored frequently as a basis for deciding on a treatment plan.

    What is a Viral load?

    Viral load is best described as the severity of an infection by estimating the amount of virus present per measure of blood. This testing is done for HIV 1 and Hepatitis B and C.
    In the case of HIV, viral load is measured copies of HIV in a milliliter of blood.

    The viral load is used as a prognostic tool. It assists in the prediction of the rate at which the disease will progress. Used in conjunction with the CD4 count it is a measure for the state of health and indicates the vulnerability to opportunistic infections.


    References and links