9 Warning Signs & Symptoms of HIV

What if you had HIV and didn’t even know it?

HIV is very scary. And what’s even scarier is that most people overlook the symptoms that could serve as warning signs.

But that doesn’t have to happen to you. We’ve put together the biggest warning signs and symptoms of HIV. Keep reading to discover what these signs are and what they could mean.

What is HIV?

Our guide will walk you through the key warning signs and symptoms of HIV. Before we go any further, though, it’s important to explain what HIV is.

HIV is a sexually-transmitted infection. Outside of sex, it can also be transmitted by contact with infected blood or even passed on from mother to child via childbirth or breastfeeding.

While you can fight HIV with medication, it will do its best to weaken your immune system. And over time, HIV may become AIDS. 

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How does HIV become AIDS?

It’s fairly common knowledge that HIV can lead to AIDS. However, the average person often doesn’t know exactly how this happens.

Basically, HIV weakens and destroys CD4+ cells that help boost your immune system. As more of these cells are weakened and destroyed, your immune system becomes progressively worse. After enough damage is done, your weakened body will develop AIDS.

Fortunately, early diagnosis and medication can help slow the damage of HIV and slow or even stop the progression of HIV to AIDS.

How to reduce the risk of HIV?

While HIV diagnosis and medication have come a long way in recent years, you are far better off trying to prevent HIV beforehand than treat it after the fact. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to reduce your risk of HIV.

The first is to practice safe sex. Make sure you use a condom (keep in mind that there are male condoms and female condoms). And have new partners screened for HIV and other STIs before you begin having sex.

For the best HIV prevention, make sure that you and your partner practice monogamy. And be very selective about your sexual partners. If you are female, you should avoid douching because this can reduce some of the healthy bacteria that might prevent you from getting HIV.

Finally, avoid abusing alcohol and drugs. If you or your partner are drunk, you may not practice the safe sex methods that will prevent HIV. And if you share needles, you could develop HIV without even having sex!

Now that you know more about the ways of reducing your risk of HIV, let’s review the major warning signs and symptoms.

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9 warning signs and symtoms of HIV:

1. Flu-like symptoms

For most people, one of the earliest HIV warning signs is flu-like symptoms. This may include rashes, fevers, headaches, swollen glands, or just a general lack of energy. If you are experiencing these symptoms and don’t actually have the flu, this may be a major warning sign.

2. Swollen glands

The lymph nodes in your body help to boost your immune system and fight off infection. As a result, HIV will lead to your lymph nodes putting in serious overtime. If you have HIV, swollen glands may be one of the earliest warning signs as your nodes try to fight off the infection.

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3. Rashes and sores

If you grew up with rashes and sores, then developing them as an adult may not be a big deal. But if the rashes and sores are new, this may be a warning sign of HIV. That is especially true if you are developing sores in your mouth, genitals, and/or anus.

4. Persistent low-grade fever

Everybody gets a fever from time to time, but it’s usually short-lived. But if you have a low-grade fever (usually between 99.8°F and 100.8°F) and it lasts a long time, this can be a sign of HIV. Many who have HIV don’t even know they have a low-grade fever until they begin having night sweats.

5. Infections

One of the more inevitable warning signs of HIV is that your body will start developing other infections as your immune system wears down. This can include things like pneumonia and tuberculosis, and women will be at enhanced risk of developing bacterial and/or yeast infections.

6. Increased outbreaks of other STIs

HIV itself is an STI (sexually-transmitted infection). But if you have other STIs, HIV may increase outbreaks of those infections. For example, someone who has HPV or genital herpes may experience more frequent and intense outbreaks if they have HIV.

7. Menstrual changes

HIV can have a unique effect on women, including disruption of your menstrual cycle. This can make your period go away altogether or make it lighter or heavier. Additionally, your PMS symptoms may be much worse.

8. Pelvic inflammatory disease

Some women with HIV may develop pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection of the female reproductive organs. Symptoms include pain in the abdomen, abnormal uterine bleeding, and vaginal discharge with an odor. If you already have PID, HIV can make your PID harder than usual to treat. In addition, the symptoms may last longer, and your PID is likelier to return.

9. More advanced symptoms

The symptoms we have mentioned so far all may serve as early warning signs that you have HIV. But if the HIV is more advanced, there may be other symptoms that develop.

These advanced symptoms include:

  • weight loss
  • diarrhea
  • joint pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • muscle aches
  • bad headaches
  • difficulty swallowing
  • persistent cough
  • short breath

If HIV advances, other symptoms may include confusion, memory loss, and even entering into a comatose state. But early diagnosis and treatment can help you prevent some of the more severe symptoms. So, make sure to practice safe sex and get tested for HIV regularly.