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  FIRST SYMPTOMS OF HIV INFECTION

Virus invading white blood cells

After initial infection with HIV, most people develop influenza-like symptoms. These include fever, headache, sore muscles and joints, stomachache, swollen lymph nodes, and/or a skin rash. Flu-like symptoms may last for one or two weeks, then symptoms disappear. A few people are asymptomatic (show no symptoms at all).

 
The body's immune response to the virus is slow. It can take up to three months for the body to produce a detectable amount of antibodies against HIV. At this stage, a person will test HIV-positive in a blood test. However, during the whole "window period" when HIV antibodies cannot be detected in blood, the infected person can infect other people.
 
Although a few HIV-positive people can stay healthy for ten or more years, HIV causes significant damage to the immune system of most.
 
Damage to a person's immune system is measured by counting the CD4+ cells present in the blood. These "T-helper" cells are very important for the integrity of the immune system. The CD4+ cell count in a healthy person is between 500 and 1,500 cells in each microliter (┬Ál) of blood.
 

 

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