HIV is a virus that break down the body’s immune system. This destroys a particular type of cell that helps the body fight off germs and diseases. Symptoms of HIV in men can vary between individuals. No two people with HIV will likely experience the exact same symptoms. However the first signs of infection generally appear within the first few months.
Although there is no cure for HIV, medication can control it. People with HIV can live healthy lives with proper medical care and medication. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help slow the progression of the virus. This can also significantly improve quality of life. For men, being able to spot the early HIV symptoms can help with getting a quick diagnosis.
HIV transmission is from person-to-person through contact with infected blood, semen and/or vaginal fluid. Vaginal, anal or (oral sex – if you have a cut or open sore in your mouth) with an infected partner greatly increases the risk of contracting HIV. Transmission can also be through unsterile drug use, from using infected needles, syringes or drug equipment.
The CDC in 2016 reported 39,782 new cases of HIV in the United States. Of those cases, 35,571 were diagnosed in males. Therefore, in this article, we look at the symptoms of HIV in men.
HIV symptoms in men
HIV symptoms will vary from case to case, but the following are the most common patterns HIV infections follow.
This is why it is so important for you and your partner to always get tested before beginning a new sexual relationship. Early HIV testing helps individuals seek needed treatment sooner. This also helps to stop the spread of the virus to others. If you have an active sex life the only way to tell is to get an HIV test.
There are varying symptoms of HIV in men. This depends upon the stage of the disease they are in: Acute HIV stage (new infection stage); asymptomatic stage; and the latest, advanced stage known as AIDS.
Acute HIV symptoms in men
Within 1 – 2 months of HIV infection, 75% to 80% of people experience flu-like symptoms such as cold, cough or headache. This is also known as acute retroviral syndrome (ARS). But sometimes HIV symptoms don’t appear for years in men. Sometimes even a decade after infection.
Acute HIV infection is the primary stage of HIV and lasts until the body has created antibodies against the virus.
The most common symptoms of this stage of HIV include:
Less common symptoms may include:
- swollen lymph nodes
- ulcers in the mouth or on the genitals
- muscle aches
- joint pain
- nausea and vomiting
- night sweats
However, symptoms usually last one to two weeks.
Asymptomatic stage of HIV
After the acute symptoms subsides is when the asymptomatic period of HIV begins. During this stage, men with HIV does not show any signs or symptoms of infection. HIV may not cause any more symptoms for months or years.
But at this point the virus is still multiplying and is starting to break down the body’s immune system. This is by attacking important immune cells. The virus is still active during this stage and can still be transmitted to others. Due to this, it is important to get tested for HIV even if you do not feel ill.
Advanced stage of HIV symptoms; AIDS
It may take some time, but HIV may eventually break down a person’s immune system. Once this happens, HIV will progress to stage 3 HIV, often referred to as AIDS. This is the last stage of the disease. At this stage, severe damage has occurred to the immune system. This makes you fall sick easily.
Symptoms men with AIDS may experience include:
- Persistent diarrhea
- Rapid weight loss
- Sores or ulcers in the mouth
- Sores or ulcers on the genitals
- Continuous fever
- Recurring chills
- Recurring night sweats
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent or prolonged swelling of the lymph nodes
- Memory loss, confusion or neurological disorders
Getting tested for HIV is the only way to know for sure whether or not you have contracted HIV. The CDC recommends getting tested at least annually. But it is important to test any time you suspect you could have contracted HIV. Also test if have been involved in high-risk sexual activity or drug use.