There are three stages of HIV infection. In the absence of treatment, the condition of the patient exacerbates with time and cause irreversible damage to the immune system.
Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection
After getting infected from the virus, a person may not know for some time as the symptoms begin to appear after a short interval of time, within two to six weeks. It is primary HIV infection or acute retroviral syndrome.
The symptoms of acute HIV infection can easily be confused with other viral infections, particularly, flu. These symptoms last for 1 or 2 weeks and then ward off. The symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Muscle ache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Res rash usually on the torso that does not itch
If someone experiences these symptoms, it is indicative of the fact that the infection has been there for past 2 to 6 weeks. The person should visit a doctor and get an HIV test.
In these cases, the doctors prescribe HIV drugs or ART (antiretroviral therapy). These drugs fight infection and boost the health of the immune system. The drugs also prevent spreading of the virus.
Stage 2: Clinical Latency
In the second stage of HIV infection, the symptoms go away. This stage is referred to as clinical latent period or asymptomatic period. People don�t even realise that they have HIV and they can pass on the infection to others.
Clinical latency stage lasts for ten years or more.
During the latency stage, HIV keeps killing CD4 T-cells and the immune system. Generally, the CD4 cell count in a normal person is always between 450 to 1,400 cells per microlitre. But, in a person infected with HIV, the number of these cells drops and hence, the person becomes more susceptible to other infections.
During this phase, the doctors try to limit its duration by prescribing HIV drugs. These medications prove very potent in fighting the infection. They also rebuild the immune system and prevent the infection from spreading.
Taking medications regularly, visiting the doctor at regular interval of time, and adopting healthy habits improve the quality of life and help the person to lead a healthy life.
Stage 3: AIDS
AIDS or Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome is the advanced stage of the infection. In this stage, the number of CD4 T-cells reaches as low as 200.
A person can also be diagnosed with AIDS if he as an AIDS-defining illness� like pneumocystis pneumonia (lung disease) or Kaposi�s sarcoma (a kind of skin cancer).
At this stage, the following symptoms appear:
- Fatigue and leathery
- Fever lasting for more than ten days
- Swollen lymph nodes in neck or groin
- Night sweats
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss
- Purple spots on the skin that do not go away
- Severe and long-lasting diarrhoea
- Unexplained bruises or bleeding
- Yeast infections in oral cavity, throat, or vagina
People with untreated AIDS can survive up to three years. But, HIV can be treated at this stage if the person takes HIV drugs regularly. The person must follow the doctor's advice and adopt a healthy lifestyle to lead a long life.