What are the signs & symptoms of HIV for women?

Written by michelle nickolaisen
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What are the signs & symptoms of HIV for women?
The red ribbon symbolises HIV/AIDS. (aids image by Angelika Bentin from Fotolia.com)

HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a member of the retrovirus family that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (otherwise known as AIDS). AIDS causes the body's immune systems to fail, which can lead to life-threatening infections. HIV infection can occur through exposure to contaminated blood or other bodily fluids. According to the World Health Organization, the worldwide population of individuals living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2008 was 33.4 million, and 2.7 million people were infected during that year alone. The majority of people who get HIV will develop signs of illness within five to 10 years, however, the time between infection and diagnosis can be as long as 15 years. If you are having signs or symptoms of HIV, you should see a doctor immediately.

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Flu-like Symptoms

Some people experience flu-like symptoms four to eight weeks after initial infection from the virus. These symptoms can include fatigue, headache, fever and swollen glands. Headaches and fatigue are more common in women and can be stronger than in men.

Abdominal Pain

Women are more likely than men to have abdominal and pelvic pain as a symptom of HIV. In women, these pains can mimic "normal" pains (menstrual pains, for example). This makes it difficult to recognise such pains as symptoms of a larger problem.

Swollen Glands

Swollen glands/lymph nodes are not only an early symptom of HIV; they can also occur later. If swollen glands keep coming back or stay swollen for an extended period, see a doctor and get them checked out.

Weight Loss

Sudden weight loss that is hard or impossible to gain back is another symptom of HIV.

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms of HIV can include depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances or insomnia and changes in body image.

Gynaecological Symptoms

Gynaecological symptoms of HIV in women can include an abnormal pap smear, genital ulcers, pelvic inflammatory disease (especially if it is difficult to treat), frequent bouts of vaginal yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis and severe herpes infections.

Other Physical Symptoms

Other physical symptoms of HIV can include frequent low-grade fevers, night sweats, persistent skin rashes, flaky skin, short-term memory loss, severe and persistent diarrhoea, vomiting, severe headaches, unusual mouth blemishes, difficulty swallowing and seizures.

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