As soon as HIV infection occurs, the immune system begins to be attacks by the virus. In this first phase, called acute infection, the HIV incubation takes place. This period represents the interval between exposures to the virus until the appearance of the first signs of infection, which varies from 3 to 6 weeks. The first HIV symptoms are very similar to those of flu, such as fever and malaise, and most of the time these signs go unnoticed.
The next step is marke by the interaction between the organism’s defense cells and the multiplication of the virus, which happens quickly. But this is not enough to weaken the immune system and allow for new diseases, as viruses mature and die in a balanced way. Therefore, this phase is Calle asymptomatic and can last for many years.
HIV can increase levels of anxiety and even depression, especially in the case of a recent diagnosis, HIV also affects the central nervous system, that is, it can alter our cognitive functions.
However, as HIV attacks the defense cells more and more frequently, they begin to weaken, until such time as they are few in number. As a result, the body gradually becomes weaker and more vulnerable to common infections.
In the symptomatic phase, the individual begins to notice the signs and symptoms caused by HIV. This stage is marke by the expressive reduction of a type of white blood cell of the immune system, called CD4+ T lymphocytes, which reach below 200 units per mm3 of blood. To give you an idea, in healthy adults, this value varies between 800 and 1,200 units per mm3 of blood.
The most common symptoms that appear at this time are: fever, diarrhea, night sweats, persistent tiredness, unintentional weight loss, and shortness of breath.
Opportunistic and AIDS – Defining Diseases
With the reduction of defense cells (T CD4+), the individual’s immunity also decreases, opening doors for opportunistic diseases that take advantage of the body’s weakness to establish themselves. Dermatological diseases are highly prevalent among PLHIV.
Thus, begins the most advanced stage of the disease, which is AIDS. People who reach this level often do not know they have the infection because they have not been tested.
Some people, even with the knowledge of the infection, do not follow the treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART), for several reasons. Progression to AIDS may be accompanied by tuberculosis, pneumonia, toxoplasmosis, some types of cancer, among other opportunistic diseases.
When in doubt, always take the test
If you have had sex where you didn’t use a condom or went through a risky situation for HIV, look for a health facility as soon as possible. Find out about Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and get tested.
The rapid tests available in the Unified Health System (SUS) take around 30 days, after infection, to detect the presence of the virus. The diagnosis of HIV and initiation of early treatment make much difference, and can prevent the progression to AIDS.