Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a disease which causes the body’s immune system to attack itself. If left untreated, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV. It currently has no cure.

The Symptoms

The symptoms of HIV and AIDS vary, depending on the phase of infection. Most people infected by HIV develop a flu-like illness within one or two months after the virus enters the body.

Possible signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and joint pain
  • Rash
  • Sore throat and painful mouth sores
  • Swollen lymph glands, mainly on the neck

Common symptoms of AIDS include chills, fever, sweats, swollen lymph glands, weakness, and weight loss.

Stages of the Illness

Thanks to better antiretroviral treatments, most people with HIV in the U.S. today don’t develop AIDS. However, untreated, HIV typically turns into AIDS in about 10 years. When people get HIV and don’t receive treatment, they will typically progress through three stages of disease.

Stage 1: Acute HIV infection

Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, people may experience a flu-like illness, which may last for a few weeks. When people have acute HIV infection, they have a large amount of virus in their blood, but people with acute infection are often unaware that they’re infected because they may not feel sick right away or at all.

Stage 2: Clinical latency (HIV inactivity or dormancy)

This period is sometimes called chronic HIV infection. During this phase, HIV is still active but reproduces at very low levels. People may not have any symptoms or get sick during this time. For people who aren’t taking medicine to treat HIV, this period can last a decade or longer, but some may progress through this phase faster.

Stage 3: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)

AIDS is the most severe phase of HIV infection. People with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses.

When is it time to contact Capital Caring?

There are no specific number of symptoms necessary to meet the hospice eligibility requirements for HIV/AIDS patients. It may be time to consider hospice when:

  • Decision has been made to forego antiretroviral, antibacterial, antifungal, chemotherapeutic and drug therapy related specifically to the AIDS diagnosis.
  • Persistent, chronic diarrhea.
  • Significant weight loss of 10 percent or more in the past three months.

Benefits of Hospice and Palliative Care at Capital Caring

Patients with HIV/AIDS may face unique challenges at end of life. Capital Caring staff are trained to meet the unique needs of these patients and provide the support and comfort they require. Capital Caring provides quality, compassionate, patient-centered care to individuals who meet the AIDS hospice criteria. The goal of hospice care for HIV/AIDS patients is to control symptoms and provide comfort and relief from pain.

Visit capitalcaring.org or call 800-869-2136 for more information or to make a referral.