What Are the Symptoms of HIV in Men?
Dr. Angel Rivera
HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that attacks the immune system and can lead to AIDS, also called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
HIV is most commonly spread through sexual contact with an HIV-positive partner, but can also be spread through sharing needles, or contact with infected blood or bodily fluids.
In this article, we will discuss the symptoms of HIV in men. Keep in mind that everyone experiences HIV differently, so not everyone will have all of these symptoms.
If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, it is important to get tested as soon as possible. Find out what symptoms to expect for men with HIV.
HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, which are also called white blood cells and they help your body fight off infection.
HIV can damage these cells and make it difficult for your body to fight off infections or diseases.
HIV is most commonly spread through sexual contact, but can also be spread through blood transfusions, sharing needles, or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as everyone’s experience with HIV will be different.
Some symptoms show up as soon as two to four weeks after exposure. However, there are some symptoms of HIV that can occur only for men.
These symptoms include the following:
Lack of testosterone
When you have HIV your testicles may not produce enough testosterone, which is called hypogonadism, and it can lead to a number of problems including:
- Lack of a sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Growth of the tissues in your breast
- Inability to grow body hair
It should be noted that this would most likely not show up in the early stages of HIV infection and can also be due to aging.
Sores on your penis
This is more likely to occur with other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as syphilis.
However, genital ulcers on your penis can occur from HIV.
Your mouth and esophagus can also have ulcers from HIV, too.
We have covered the most common symptoms to occur in HIV-infected men and now we will examine the symptoms that can be experienced by everyone.
Early-stage HIV-positive symptoms can be mild and mistaken for the common cold or flu-like symptoms that include:
- Aches and pain in your body
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands
- Nausea and vomiting
- Night sweats
These symptoms are common but are still not experienced by everyone who has HIV.
This is the earliest stage of infection and is known as acute HIV infection or primary HIV infection.
At this point, the virus is replicating while your body is trying to fight it off. You also have a higher chance of spreading the virus when in this stage as you will have a much higher viral load in bodily fluids.
What are the late stage symptoms of HIV?
The late stage of HIV is known as chronic HIV infection or clinical latency and symptoms can vary depending on how your body responds to the virus.
Most people will not have many, if any symptoms at this stage. Now your immune system has been overrun and the virus replicates much slower. However, the virus can start to be controlled when you enter this stage.
By taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) drugs, you may stay in this stage for decades as opposed to 10 or 15 years without taking any drugs.
With ART, you also are less likely to transmit the virus and some have even been shown to have such low levels of the virus that it can not be detected in your body.
AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. HIV can damage your immune system and affect different parts of your body and there is no one common symptom.
When HIV damages your immune system, you are susceptible to other opportunistic infections and diseases which is why AIDS is also known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
The symptoms most frequently experienced in people with AIDS are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Long-lasting or persistent diarrhea
- Swollen lymph glands
- Memory loss
- Rashes or lesions on the skin which can appear on your mouth, nose, genitals, or anus
- Shortness of breath
These are some of the most common and severe symptoms, though not all of them, if you suffer from AIDS.
Your doctor may prescribe ART to help your immune system at this point. If you had ART while diagnosed with HIV, it is unlikely the virus will develop to the point of AIDS.
How do doctors diagnose HIV?
HIV diagnosis usually includes a combination of tests that your doctor will order based on your symptoms and risk factors.
Blood, saliva, or urine can all be used to determine if you have HIV although blood tests are the most commonly used by doctors. The most common types of HIV tests are:
This is a blood test that looks for antibodies to the HIV virus. If you have been infected with HIV, your body will produce antibodies to fight the virus.
This test can be used to determine if you have HIV as well as the stage of infection.
This HIV test looks for both HIV antibodies and antigens in your blood. HIV antigens are proteins on the surface of the virus.
If this test is positive, it means you have HIV and the virus is actively replicating.
Nucleic acid test (NAT)
The NAT looks for the genetic material of the virus in your blood. This type of HIV test is very sensitive and can detect the virus even if you only have a few copies of it.
Most of these tests take a few days to get the results. There are rapid antibody tests that can give you a result in under 30 minutes.
The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be screened for HIV at least once in their lifetime.
However, if you have certain risk factors, you may need to be tested more often. Some common risk factors for HIV include:
- Having unprotected sex with someone who has HIV or another sexually transmitted infection
- Sharing needles or other drug paraphernalia
- Being born to a mother with HIV
- Having unprotected sex or sharing bodily fluids with anyone you do not know or are unsure if they have been tested for HIV
- Getting a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
If you have experienced any of these risk factors, you should talk to your doctor about getting tested for HIV.
When you have unprotected sex with multiple partners you should also be tested regularly.
If you do not want to go to your doctor or healthcare professional for testing, it is often available for free at many clinics around the country and there are also at-home tests available now that can be purchased online.
There are many ways that you can reduce your risk of getting HIV.
Some methods are more effective than others but it is important to use all of them to have the best chance of preventing HIV infection.
Use condoms every time you have sex
The most effective way to prevent HIV is by using condoms every time you have sex.
Condoms provide a barrier between the penis and vagina, anus, or mouth which helps to prevent the exchange of bodily fluids that can carry HIV.
Talk to your sexual partner about HIV status
If you are sexually active, it is important to talk to your partner about their HIV status.
If they are HIV positive, there are many treatments available that can prolong their life and prevent them from spreading the virus to others.
Get tested for HIV
If you are unsure of your HIV status, it is important to get tested.
It is the only way to know for sure if you are infected or not. HIV tests are available through your doctor, at clinics, and online.
Limit your number of sexual partners
The more people you have sex with, the greater your risk of getting HIV.
Limiting the number of people you have sex with will reduce your overall chances of getting HIV.
Avoid sharing needles or other drug equipment
Sharing needles or other drug paraphernalia can increase your risk of getting HIV.
If you are going to use drugs, make sure to use a new needle and syringe each time.
Be informed about HIV
It is important to be informed about HIV and how it can be prevented.
Talk to your friends, family, and healthcare providers about HIV so that you can make informed decisions about your health.
HIV is preventable and there are many ways to protect yourself from it.
Take PrEP if you have been exposed to the virus
This drug is used to help prevent people who are HIV-negative to help ensure they don't contract the virus if they have been exposed to it.
Wear gloves when exposed to blood or bodily fluids
If you are going to be around blood or other body fluids, make sure to wear gloves. This will help protect you from coming in contact with HIV.
There are many symptoms of HIV but only a couple are specific to men.
These include sores on your penis and a lack of testosterone, although these symptoms do not occur for everyone.
It is important to be aware of these symptoms so that you can get treatment if needed. Some early-stage symptoms for all people who suffer from HIV include fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes to name only a few.
Later stage symptoms of HIV are not common. However, if HIV has progressed to AIDS then it can include weight loss, night sweats, and diarrhea among many other symptoms. HIV can be diagnosed through a blood test.
If you are at risk for HIV, it is important to get tested regularly. There are many ways to prevent HIV including using condoms, and taking PrEP if you have been exposed to HIV.
HIV is a serious virus and it is important to be informed about it so that you can take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. If you are uncertain if you have HIV you should get tested immediately.
If you have any further questions please talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.
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