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In the United States, the first case of HIV was reported in the year 1981, and it was identified later in the year 1983. This was the first time it was known. However, researchers have proved that the virus existed since the late 1970s. Since the time it was identified, a large number of individuals have fallen prey to it. The fact that it cannot be cured, makes it one of the most dreaded diseases.

What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus is the virus which causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). AIDS is the last stage of an HIV infection. HIV is a lentivirus or slow virus. It is called so, because it affects the immune system slowly. There have been cases when the initial symptoms started showing up after several years of contracting the infection.

HIV, upon entering the blood stream, starts attacking the CD4 cells (also known as T4 cells). These cells are responsible for a stronger immune system. The virus starts replicating these cells, which leads to their destruction. What follows next is, deterioration of the complete immune system. Studies shows that the final stages of AIDS leave the patient with as less as 200 cells (compared to 1000 cells in a healthy adult).

Early Symptoms

The early symptoms are not very specific, and are similar to the symptoms of other illnesses. The very first signs show up when our body starts producing antibodies against the virus. The initial signs will be flu-like and include:
  • Fever
  • Muscle ache
  • Body ache
  • Swollen lymph
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
Severe Symptoms

As the disease advances, the symptoms become severe. Since it affects the immune system gradually, it starts making the patient susceptible to other diseases, infections, and illnesses. He, thus starts contracting infections, which otherwise a healthy person wouldn't. With the help of medication, the growth of infections can be lowered. Few symptoms of severe HIV are as follows:
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Cough and shortness of breath
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Easy bruising
Symptoms in Women

The symptoms cannot be distinguished between sexes separately, and the virus does not show variation as per the gender. However, few of the prominent signs exhibited amongst infected women include:
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Oral infection
  • Lipodystrophy
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Vaginal infection
  • Delirium
  • Dizziness
  • Skin infection
When do the Symptoms Appear?

The initial signs of HIV can be noticed in as early as 2 weeks from the time of contracting the infection. It is the stage where one may misinterpret it as common cold, or other common illnesses. These symptoms may last for a few weeks or months, after which they stop. If you suspect it to be an HIV infection, it is highly recommended to get tested for the same. It is the only way to know if a person is infected or not.

The disease can be caused through blood transfusion, unprotected sex with an infected person, sharing contaminated needles and syringes, injection drug usage, or can be transferred from mother to child while giving birth. The only way to escape from the clutches of this fearful disease is to take precaution.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.