Before doctors and scientists knew what HIV/AIDS was, what caused it, and how the disease was transmitted, they began noticing a rising trend of symptoms normally associated with immunocompromised conditions in communities of gay men.
Eventually, these came to be known as opportunistic infections -- symptoms of AIDS and signs that a patient is losing the battle against the virus. But it wasn’t until much later in the epidemic and investigation process that researchers became fully aware of the long life-cycle of the virus before any of these symptoms appear.
Let’s start at the beginning.
As mentioned in the previous article, HIV/AIDS are what is called a lentivirus -- a slow-acting virus with a period of latency that allows it to hide, undetected or ignored, for a long time in your blood. It is hard to conceptualize a killer disease with no symptoms, but at least at first, this is what HIV is.
Immediately after infection, you are unlikely to experience any symptoms or feelings of sickness at all. This is one of the factors that made it difficult for researchers in the 1980s to identify the disease’s mode of transmission.
Moreover, it is one of the things that continues to make HIV so dangerous -- someone who seems to be healthy may actually be carrying the virus! And unless you are only engaging in sexual activity with one person (and they are also practicing monogamy) it can be difficult to know exactly who gave you the disease.
THIS IS WHY IT IS CRUCIAL TO USE PROTECTION EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU HAVE SEX WITH A NEW PARTNER.
About 4 to 6 weeks after you are infected, you may experience some light flu-like symptoms. These include a fever, headache, sore throat, rash, swollen lymph glands, or feeling tired and generally achy. Often, these vague complaints go unnoticed, or they are attributed to some other common illness or stress.
After this point, the HIV virus goes into hiding and you can live for up to 10 years without any adverse medical effects or indication that you are sick. But you CAN still transmit the disease to others. And you ARE still sick.