HIV/AIDS and TB > What are HIV and AIDS? > The Different Stages of HIV
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The Different Stages of HIV

There are four stages of the HIV disease:

Stage 1: Primary HIV Infection

The early symptoms of HIV may include the feeling of a sore throat, swollen glands, headache, muscle aches or similar flu-like symptoms, and afterwards you will return to feeling completely well. This stage may last several years during which the person might have no HIV-related illnesses

Stage 2: The Asymptomatic or “Silent” Stage

If you have the primary HIV illness you can feel very well for many years without showing any major symptoms. A person with HIV who lives a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy foods, taking exercise, food supplements and anti-retroviral therapy (ART) if necessary, can remain in stage 1 or 2 of the illness for many years, living a normal life.

Where the person does not live healthily and/or fails to take anti-retroviral (ARVs) he or she will begin to develop minor illnesses in stage 2. Ear infections, frequent flu and skin problems are common at this stage.

Stage 3: Early HIV Symptomatic Disease

Gradually, after many years, the person’s immune system starts to break down and the CD4 cell count drops lower and lower. (The strength of a person’s immune system is calculated by their CD4 cell count). Some people will begin to show mild symptoms of HIV disease, for example, shingles, swollen lymph glands, occasional fevers, mild skin irritations and rashes, fungal skin and nail infections, mouth ulcers, chest infections and weight loss.

Stage 4: Medium-Stage HIV Symptomatic Disease

This is the stage when the CD4 cell count gets very low and people use ARVs to boost their immune systems. In stage four, the person has illnesses due to a very weak immune system. These may include PCP (Pneumocystis pneumonia), pneumonia, chronic diarrhoea, toxoplasmosis and meningitis. It is at this stage that a person is said to “have AIDS.” A person is also said to “have AIDS” if their CD4 count (white blood cells) goes under 200.