How do you know you have HIV?

Signs and symptoms:
The signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS depend on the stage of the infection. Most HIV infected persons develop a flu-like illness within a month or two after the virus enters the body. This illness, known as primary or acute HIV infection, may last for a few weeks.
Possible signs and symptoms include:
fever, headache, muscle aches, joint pain skin rash, sore throat, swollen lymph glands etc.

These symptoms may be mild enough to go unnoticed and the person is said to be asymptomatic. Although clinically the patient is fine, the amount of virus in the bloodstream (viral load) is particularly high and so the infection can easily be transmitted at this stage. As the virus continues to multiply and destroy immune cells, the patient may develop chronic signs and symptoms such as: fatigue, swollen lymph nodes (often one of the first signs of HIV infection), diarrhea, weight loss, oral yeast infection (thrush), shingles (herpes zoster).

Without treatment HIV infection typically progresses to AIDS which is characterized by the body’s susceptibility to opportunistic infections, the signs of which depend on the body system involved. Common manifestations of these infections are night sweats, recurrent fever, chronic diarrhea, cough, severe weight loss, skin rashes etc.

How can HIV infection be prevented?

Up to date there is no available cure for HIV infection. Prevention which aims at halting the transmission of the virus is therefore the best strategy for HIV control and for effective prevention of HIV, it is important for everybody to know their HIV status and the modes of transmission of HIV.

Get to know your HIV status!

The MINISTRY of PUBLIC HEALTH has put in place many strategies to improve access to HIV testing in order to permit all Cameroonians to know their HIV status. These include provider initiated testing and counselling (PITC) which is offered in all health facilities and VCT (voluntary counselling and testing) through mobile teams in the community.

HIV testing is free of charge for pregnant women, children up to 15 years, TB patients and costs 500 FRS CFA for the rest of the population. When tested positive anti-retroviral treatment (ART) is started immediately and free of charge. When properly taken this treatment reduces the viral load (amount of virus in the body) to undetectable levels and thus markedly reduces its transmission.

HIV can be prevented by:

  • Having protected sex (use of condoms)
  • Using only sterile injection equipment and avoid sharing sharp objects (such as needles, razor blades etc.)
  • Treatment of HIV infected pregnant and breast feeding mothers to reduce the risk of transmission to their babies
  • ARV treatment of HIV infected persons (treatment as prevention). Providing anti-retroviral treatment (ART) to infected persons significantly lowers the risk of transmission of HIV.