HIV IN STAGES
A person who is diagnosed with HIV, who does not start treatment will typically progress through 3 stages of disease.
Acute HIV infection
This refers to the time when a person is first infected with HIV. Within 2 to 4 weeks after an infection, a person may experience flu-like symptoms which may last for a few weeks. This is the body’s natural response to infections.
During this stage of infection, HIV makes copies of itself and rapidly spreads throughout the body. The immune system responds and tries to attack the virus by producing HIV antibodies, this process is called seroconversion. The level of HIV in the blood and body fluids is very high during this stage, which increases the risk of transmission.
Some people may not experience any symptoms, and many are unaware that they have been infected with HIV at this point.
Chronic HIV infection
After an acute HIV infection and seroconversion process, a person may start to feel better, however HIV continues to make copies of itself and spread through the body, but at very low levels.
During this stage of HIV infection, a person may not have any symptoms. Without treatment, chronic HIV infection usually advances to AIDS within 10 years, in some people it may advance faster or slower.
AIDS is the final and most advanced stage of HIV. The immune system is severely weakened at this stage and body is unable to fight off serious infections and diseases.
People living with HIV are diagnosed with AIDS if they have a CD4 count of less than 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood or if they have a certain serious infection or disease. Without treatment, a person with an AIDS diagnosis will typically survive about 3 years. The level of HIV in the blood and body fluids is very high during this stage, which increases the risk of transmission.
A person can still be treated at this stage and can recover from AIDS-related infections and diseases.