In 2015 an estimatedÂ 7 million South Africans were living with HIV, whileÂ there were 380,000 new infections and 180,000 peopleÂ died from AIDS-related illnesses.
Although SAÂ has the largest antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme globally,Â HIV prevalence remains high among the general population.
Symptoms associated with HIV and advanced HIV (Aids) do vary, however itâ€™s important to seek immediate medical advice if you ever feel you may beÂ experiencing changes to your state of health.
These are some of the symptoms to look out for:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Pain/difficulty swallowing
- Dry cough
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats/sweating
- Nausea, persistent diarrhoea, vomiting, or watery diarrhoea
- Mouth ulcers or white tongue
- Groin sores or swelling
- Opportunistic infection
- Oral thrush
- Red blotches/skin rash
- Severe unintentional weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
During the first few weeks of having HIV, the immune system tries to mount a defense.
Similar to the defense that occurs if the immune system detects influenza, mononucleosis or rubella.
This immune response can cause some people to have initial symptoms that usually go away within a few weeks, whileÂ others may not noticeÂ any changes.
This is usually followed by a long period in which there are no symptoms at all.
Even if the person doesnâ€™t take antiretroviral treatment, they usually remain in fairly good health for several years.
But untreated HIV will, slowly and surely, damage the immune system (the bodyâ€™s natural defense system).
This makes people vulnerable to a wide range of health problems.
TheÂ symptoms of advanced HIV diseaseÂ (AIDS) are in fact the symptoms of other infections and diseases that the weakened immune system has been unable to keep under control.
Though it can be nerve-wracking to get tested forÂ HIV, it is important.
Even without symptoms, an infected person is still contagious and can easilyÂ infect othersÂ through an exchange of bodily fluids.
Taking an HIV test is the only way to determine whether you have the disease. So be smart,Â stay safe, and protect others.
Talk to your doctor aboutÂ getting testedÂ if you are sexually active, have ever shared needles, or have other reason to think that you may have been infected with HIV.
- HIV is the virus that causes HIV infection. AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.
- HIV is spread through contact with the blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, or breast milk of a person infected with HIV. Individuals cannot become infected through ordinary day-to-day contact such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or sharing personal objects, food or water.
- The use of HIV medicines to treat HIV infection is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART involves taking a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV regimen) every day. ART canâ€™t cure HIV infection, but it can help people infected with HIV live longer, healthier lives. HIV medicines can also reduce the risk of transmission of HIV.