5 Signs A Woman Is HIV Positive Even Though She Looks Healthy
Historically, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has affected more men than women. However, if new HIV infections continue at their current rate worldwide, women with HIV may soon outnumber men with HIV.
Women may wonder how HIV symptoms for them differ from those seen in men. Many HIV symptoms are the same for men and women, but not all.
Here’s a list of 5 common symptoms, including those that are specific to women.
Women with HIV can experience changes to their menstrual cycle. Their periods may be lighter or heavier than normal, or they may not have a period at all.
HIV-positive women may also have more severe premenstrual symptoms.
Most people with HIV develop skin problems. Rash is a common symptom of HIV, and many different types of skin rashes are associated with the condition. They may be a symptom of HIV itself or the result of a concurrent infection or condition.
If a rash appears, it’s a good idea to have a healthcare provider review one’s medical history. They can use a complete medical history to determine which diagnostic tests are needed.
Lymph nodes are located throughout the human body, including the neck, back of the head, armpits, and groin. As part of the immune system, lymph nodes fend off infections by storing immune cells and filtering pathogens.
Signs A Woman Is HIV Positive
As HIV begins to spread, the immune system kicks into high gear. The result is enlarged lymph nodes, commonly known as swollen glands.
It’s often one of the first signs of HIV. In people living with HIV, swollen glands may last for several months.
What are the symptoms of HIV/AIDS in women?
Many people have no symptoms when they first become infected with HIV. Some people may have a flu-like illness (including fever, headache, tiredness and enlarged lymph nodes) within a month or two after exposure to the virus. These symptoms usually disappear within a week to a month and are often mistaken for those of another viral infection.
More severe symptoms may not appear for 10 years or more. Even during the asymptomatic period, the virus is active inside a person’s body and can be passed to another person.
As the immune system worsens, a variety of complications start to occur. For many people, the first signs of infection are large lymph nodes or “swollen glands” that may be enlarged for more than three months. Other symptoms often experienced months to years before the onset of AIDS include:
- lack of energy or fatigue
- weight loss
- frequent low-grade fevers and night sweats
- frequent yeast infections (in the mouth)
- skin rashes or flaky skin that is hard to heal
- short-term memory loss
Most symptoms of HIV disease are similar in men and women. Women who have HIV can have additional symptoms that happen more often. These include:
- vaginal yeast infections
- other vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis; common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like gonorrhea, Chlamydia and trichomoniasis; human papillomavirus (HPV) infections that cause genital warts and can lead to cervical cancer; pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- infection of a women’s reproductive organs and menstrual cycle changes, such as not having periods
What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
The term AIDS refers to the most advanced stages of HIV infection. Most of the conditions affecting people with AIDS are opportunistic infections that generally do not affect healthy people. In people with AIDS, these infections are often severe and sometimes fatal because the immune system is so ravaged by HIV that the body cannot fight off the infection. Symptoms of opportunistic infections common in people with AIDS include:
- coughing and shortness of breath
- seizures and lack of coordination
- difficult or painful swallowing
- mental symptoms such as confusion and thoughtfulness
- severe and persistent diarrhea
- vision loss
- nausea, abdominal cramps and vomiting
- weight loss
- extreme fatigue
- severe headaches
- People with AIDS also are particularly prone to developing various cancers. These cancers are usually more aggressive and difficult to treat in people with AIDS.
How can a woman reduce her chances of contracting HIV?
HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids like blood and semen. Using injection drugs, having unprotected sex and having multiple sex partners increases the chances of acquiring HIV. The only way to be absolutely certain you do not become infected with HIV is to not have sex and not use injection drugs. You also can avoid infection by only having one sex partner as long as your partner does not have HIV and has sex only with you. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), using a male or female condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex can greatly lower your risk of infection. Using condoms for oral sex will reduce your risk for other STDs as well. It also is important not to douche, since douching removes some of the normal vaginal bacteria that can protect you from infection.
How is HIV diagnosed?
An HIV antibody test, either from a blood sample or an oral sample (Orasure), can tell whether you have been infected. A negative test result means no HIV antibodies were found. This usually means you are not infected. However, if you engaged in behavior that could spread the virus within three months of having the test, antibodies may not be detectable and you should be re-tested. A positive test result means antibodies to HIV were found. This means you are infected with the virus and can pass HIV to others even if you have no symptoms. You are infected for life. Even if you think you have a low risk for HIV infection, consider getting tested whenever you have a regular medical check-up.
Is there any treatment of a cure for HIV/AIDS?
Currently, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS. People living with HIV will need lifelong treatment. The best treatments right now are combinations of prescription drugs. These medications include antiviral treatment, protease inhibitors and other drugs that help people who are living with HIV stay healthy. People living with HIV also can stay healthy by doing things like eating properly, exercising and getting enough sleep.
If I am pregnant and have HIV, will my baby also have HIV?
Most women with HIV can protect their baby from becoming infected during pregnancy. Proper pre-natal treatment can reduce the risk that an HIV-positive mother will pass the virus to her child to less than 1 percent. The only way these special treatments can be provided is if the health care professionals know the mother is living with HIV. Treatment is most effective when started early in pregnancy. HIV-positive moms should not breastfeed their babies because HIV is sometimes passed this way.