When I was first diagnosed in 2004 with HIV the early symptom knowledge was scarce. I had no signs that seemed questionable at the time. In hindsight, about a year after diagnosis, I realised that I had what I thought was a full body heat rash. That must have been the start of my HIV journey. I lived in Durban, and, with the extreme heat and humidity, I thought nothing of it, to my eventual detriment. I was later diagnosed in 2008.

By Cindy Pivacic.


What is HIV? 

HIV is a virus that weakens your immune system. HIV is transferred through bodily fluids and attacks the body’s immune system. HIV destroys a specific type of cell that helps the body fight infections and diseases. Early detection of HIV can ensure the timely treatment to regulate the virus and prevent advancement into stage 3 HIV. Stage 3 HIV is more commonly known as AIDS.

Early symptoms of HIV

The early signs of HIV, known as acute retroviral syndrome, may look like symptoms similar to those caused by the flu. These can include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Sore throat
  • Rash
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Genital ulcers
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Night sweats
  • Malaise
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea 

Immune system weakness

By the time I was diagnosed with AIDS, four years after my initial diagnosis, I had experienced ten of the above symptoms. This situation weakened my immune system causing my CD4 count to drop to 203. The inclusion of TB meningitis, and cancer, affirmed my AIDS diagnosis. Remember that these ‘early’ signs may appear at different periods after infection. We all have immune systems that operate at different levels.

Early HIV symptoms

Early HIV symptoms generally develop within 2-4 weeks of transmission. Some people may not experience any early symptoms after they’ve contracted HIV. It’s important to know that early HIV symptoms are also associated with common illnesses and health conditions. The absence of symptoms can last for as long as 10 to 15 years. This absence does not mean that the virus has disappeared. HIV is a manageable health condition. Left untreated, however, HIV can progress to stage 3 even if no symptoms are present. That’s why it’s so important to get tested.

HIV tests

I have said this before and will repeat it often: anyone who is sexually active, no matter your relationship status, should have an HIV test at least once a year. 

A chronic condition can affect anyone. How you manage it is what makes the difference.

You can get cover of up to 1 million rand for your chronic health condition and up to 10 million if you are living with HIV. 

SMS CHRONIC to 33857 to find out more. 

I did!

Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure, and is not a substitute for professional consultation with a health professional.

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