Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection - What Happens
After you become infected with HIV, your blood,
semen, or vaginal fluids should always be considered infectious, even if you receive treatment
for the HIV infection.
Stages of HIV
Most people go through the following
stages after being infected with HIV if the infection is not treated:
- Acute retroviral syndrome, which may have
symptoms similar to
mononucleosis. This often develops within a few days
of infection, but may occur several weeks after the person is infected.
- HIV without symptoms (asymptomatic). It may take years for HIV
symptoms to develop. But even though no symptoms are present, the virus is
multiplying (or making copies of itself) in the body during this time. HIV
multiplies so quickly that the
immune system cannot destroy the virus. After years of
fighting HIV, the immune system starts to weaken.
- HIV with symptoms
(symptomatic). After your immune system starts to weaken, you are more likely
to develop certain
infections or illnesses, such as some types of
pneumonia or cancer that are more common in people who
weakened immune system.
- AIDS, which occurs during the last
stage of infection with HIV. If HIV goes untreated,
AIDS develops in most people within 10 to 12 years after the initial infection.
With treatment for HIV, the progression to AIDS may be delayed or
A small number of people who are infected with HIV are
rapid progressors. They develop AIDS within a few years if they do not receive
treatment. It is not known why the infection progresses faster in these
Nonprogressors and HIV-resistant
A few people have
HIV that does not progress to more severe symptoms or disease. They are
referred to as
A small number of people
never become infected with HIV despite years of exposure to the virus. For
example, they may have repeated, unprotected sex with an infected person. These
people are said to be