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Understanding AIDS/HIV -- Symptoms

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HIV Infection and AIDS - the Third Stage

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the advanced stage of HIV infection. When the CD4 T-cell number drops below 200, people are diagnosed with AIDS.

Someone infected with HIV can also be diagnosed with AIDS if they have an “AIDS defining illness” such as Kaposi’s sarcoma (a form of skin cancer) or pneumocystis pneumonia (a lung disease).

Fortunately, combination medications used to treat HIV -- a ''cocktail'' – can help rebuild the immune system. These drugs can be expensive and pose challenges with side effects, but it is critical to not stop taking them without talking to your doctor. It is also important not to take part of the medications without taking the others. People with low CD4 T-cells may also receive drugs to prevent opportunistic infections. These preventative medications should be taken until the CD4 count has improved. 

Some people don't know they were infected with HIV, and only discover their HIV infection after experiencing some of these HIV-related symptoms:

  • Being tired all of the time
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck or groin
  • Fever lasting for more than 10 days
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Purplish spots on the skin that don't go away
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe, long-lasting diarrhea
  • Yeast infections in the mouth, throat, or vagina
  • Easy bruising or unexplained bleeding

Call Your Doctor About HIV or AIDS If:

Call your doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms of HIV/AIDS. These are serious signs of disease, which could be HIV-related.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on March 30, 2014
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