The HIV virus is a retrovirus that affects both men and women when it encounters the anus, vagina, eyes, mouth or broken skin. This is a disease that slowly progresses and people may not exhibit symptoms for the first 10 years after they are infected.
HIV is mainly transmitted through unprotected sex between an infected person and another, through shared needles by drug users and when undergoing body piercing or tattooing, blood transfusions or between a mother and baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding. HIV virus cannot spread from casual exposure like sharing cutlery, kissing (unless the infected person has open sores on the mouth), shaking hands, hugging etc.
Symptoms of HIV in men
Early symptoms of HIV in men are virtually undetectable. Hence, those who are at risk must get tested at once. For a disease that is easily preventable, the rate of HIV infections is still far too high all over the world. The category with the greatest risk is men for 44% of new cases are among homosexual men and 34% among heterosexual men. Black men have the highest HIV infection rates (7% more than white men in the US).
Early symptoms of HIV in men, because of the slow breakdown of the immune system are:
- Flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is caused by the influenza virus. Typical symptoms include high fever, general weakness, tiredness, headache, dry cough, sore throat.
- Unexplained skin rashes that will cause flaky skin with yellow or white scales.
- Sore throat that causes inflammation of the throat and difficulty with swallowing
- Extreme and unexplained tiredness and a lack of energy
- Joint pain that affects the connections between bones due to infections that can cause swelling of the joints and restrictive movement.
- Muscle pain causes inflammation and pain of the soft tissues of the body.
- Swelling of the lymph glands is a classic symptom of HIV in men. HIV can cause the glands to enlarge and develop nodes.
These symptoms can last for a month, can disappear and people not display any symptoms for many more years. During this asymptomatic HIV infectious period, the virus still lives in the body, spreads and continues the damage to the immune system. If left untreated, you can soon develop late-stage HIV infection and display the following symptoms.
Later symptoms of HIV in men
- Night sweats that cause excessive sweating in the night, which drenches sheets and clothes. They are not due to a heated environment.
- Persistent tiredness or fatigue is an extreme feeling of lethargy, lack of motivation and affects both the mind and body.
- Weight loss refers to a person suddenly being unable to eat and becoming thin.
- Blurred vision is poor vision that lacks sharpness. A person cannot see fine details when previously they had no vision problems.
- Continual diarrhea when you pass loose stools more than 3-4 times a day
- White spots appear on the mouth or tongue
- Dry cough that is persistent and leaves your chest aching.
- Breathlessness is when will struggle to breathe and is similar to a feeling when you have exercised a lot.
- Fever at a constant of 100O F that persists for several weeks
- Swelling in the glands for 3 months or more
With such a weak immune system, it is possible for a person to contract life-threatening illnesses like pneumonia or tuberculosis, chronic wasting of the body, HIV dementia and HIV lipodystrophy and other opportunistic critical illnesses like candidiasis, pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, salmonella infection of the bloodstream, toxoplasmosis, viral infection of the brain and so on.
What to do?
None of the symptoms of HIV can be treated at home. A person at risk and feels they have been exposed must get the appropriate tests done at a medical facility and get the right treatment started at once. Typical tests are the HIV Western Blot test and HIV ELISA test. When these tests come positive, it means the person has HIV infection. When these tests are positive, further tests will be done to check the level of HIV virus in the blood stream. If the tests are negative and you still display HIV symptoms, then your health provider will tell you to get retested after 3 months. This must be done to completely rule out HIV.
Treatment of HIV in men
A combination of anti-retroviral drugs is normally recommended for those with a CD4 count lower than 500 cells/ mm3. Those with neurological and kidney problems will need treatment irrespective of their CD4 count. All HIV patients must ensure they take all their medications regularly and without fail. Failure to do so will result in the HIV virus becoming drug-resistant and further spreading of infection.
Apart from medical treatment, patients, their family and friends need to be educated about the disease, precautionary measures that need to be taken and certain myths about ways that this disease can be transmitted.
HIV in Men : Prevention and Precaution
The best prevention for spread of HIV virus is to abstain from sex until it is certain that both partners are free from HIV and are in a monogamous relationship. Avoid using and injecting drugs with shared needles. Using new needles is the safest way to prevent onset of HIV. Avoid contact with semen, anal, oral or vaginal unprotected sex and from HIV-infected persons by using condoms always.
Unprotected anal intercourse can cause a tear in the rectal tissues. This is why homosexual men are the group with the highest risk of contracting HIV. If you have unprotected sex and your partner has HIV, then the virus will directly enter your blood through these rectal tears. Those with multiple partners or partners whose sex history is unknown must always use condoms. People with HIV/AIDS must not exchange genital fluids when they have sex. They must also not donate organs, sperm, blood or plasma.
Catching this disease early, undergoing the right treatment, following proper precautionary and preventive measures will ensure you live a full, long and active life.