Stages of Infection
There are four stages of HIV infection. The first, known as the Primary HIV Infection or Stage 1, is the first month after infection. The only symptom during the stage is an illness, commonly mistaken for the flu. The immune system is only started a resistance. Since there are few antibodies as of yet, testing for HIV will not show up positive during this stage.
The next stage is Asymptomatic Infection. While the virus is in this stage, very few symptoms are experienced. The most common is swollen glands. This is significant because while no outward signs are felt, the HIV virus is very active in this area. Here, it kills many helper T-cells and spawns a large amount of new viruses. Most HIV in the body is here, but the virus can still be spread. A new method of diagnosis, the viral load test, tries to measure the viruses that are outside this area, and it may become instrumental in the next set of anti-HIV treatments. Once the immune system is sufficiently weakened, the infection has progressed to Stage 3.
In Stage 3, also known as Symptomatic HIV Infection, the virus has begun to defeat the immune system. The virus finally wins the battle against the immune system for one or more of three reasons. One is that the HIV causes damage to the lymph nodes where most of its activity takes place. Another is that it destroys more T-cells than the body builds. A last possibility is that a strain of HIV is created that is more dangerous to the body. Either way, several years of stalemate between the body and the virus are over. From here, the infection soon proceeds to Stage 4.
Stage 4 is AIDS. In this stage, the body’s immune system has been incapacitated. An opportunistic infection has a clear path to attack the victim, and so they must be careful not to catch another disease. At this point, HIV has done all the damage that it can do, and the body is in a very hazardous position.
"The Different Stages of HIV Infection." 26 Jun. 2002. Avert. 8 Feb. 2004 <http://www.avert.org/hivstages.htm>.