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Men affected by HIV
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one million Americans have HIV, and the prevalence of infection is on the rise among men. In 2014, the estimated number of HIV diagnoses in the U.S. was 44,073. Approximately 80 percent of those diagnoses were among men ages 13 and older.
HIV can affect people of any race, gender, or sexual orientation. The virus passes from person to person through contact with infected blood, semen, or vaginal fluids. Having unprotected sex with an infected partner greatly increases the risk of contracting HIV.
Once infection occurs, it can take a couple of weeks for symptoms to appear. These may include flu-like symptoms, weight loss, and fatigue. However, HIV might not cause symptoms for several years. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your status allows you to get treatment sooner and to take steps to prevent transmitting the infection to others. Always ask your doctor for an HIV test if you suspect you are infected.
Cause for Concern?
When it comes to HIV infection, it’s important to know what early symptoms to look for. Early detection of the infection can help ensure that you receive prompt treatment to control the virus, and possibly slow the progression into AIDS.
How to spot early HIV symptoms in men
In general, the HIV symptoms that men will experience are not all that different to those found in women. Apart from vaginal or menstrual changes all the tell-tale signs are the same in men and women.
HIV symptoms can vary significantly between patients. No two HIV-positive men will have exactly the same experience.
In general, a man’s HIV infection will follow this general pattern:
- Acute illness: This may or may not occur. Around 70% of patients notice it. If this occurs, it is most liekly to happen 1-2 weeks post infection. Symptoms include fever, sickness and chills.
- Asymptomatic period: A long period of time (up to 10 years) in which you do not experience any symptoms.
- Advanced infection: A highly weakened immune system makes you susceptible to a number of different illnesses.
If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, get an HIV test. Most HIV tests detect antibodies (proteins your body makes as a reaction against the presence of HIV), not HIV itself. But it takes a few weeks for your body to produce these antibodies, so if you test too early, you might not get an accurate test result. A new HIV test is available that can detect HIV directly during this early stage of infection. So be sure to let your testing site know if you think you may have beenrecently infected with HIV.
After you get tested, it’s important to find out the result of your test so you can talk to your health care provider about treatment options if you’re HIV-positive or learn ways to prevent getting HIV if you’re HIV-negative.
You are at high risk of transmitting HIV to others during the early stage of HIV infection, even if you have no symptoms. For this reason, it is very important to take steps to reduce your risk of transmission.
How often should men get an HIV test?
The general nature of these symptoms often doesn’t clue in some men that they may be experiencing acute HIV infection. This can be dangerous because during this phase the person can be transmitting the virus to their partner(s) without knowing it. HIV testing for men who are sexually active is recommended at least once in his lifetime by the CDC and more often for men who are at high risk (IV drug users, men who have sex with men). Testing remains the only way to know whether you have HIV. If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to HIV or have had unprotected sex, get tested.
Once the acute phase of HIV infection is over, there may be a long, symptom free period where an infected person feels “normal” and remains unaware of his infection. However, the virus is still at work and causing damage to the body’s immune system. Eventually, the body’s defenses become so damaged that AIDS develops. For more information on AIDS and AIDS symptoms, see our pages dedicated to that topic.
How HIV is spread
Transmission can occur from men to women and from women to men as well as between men who have sex with men. The best way to stop HIV transmission is to always use a condom when having sex.
HIV is transmitted by body fluids including blood, ejaculate (cum), pre-ejaculate (pre-cum), female genital fluids (both vaginal and cervical fluid), breastmilk and anal mucous.
The way the virus gains entry to another person may be directly across the mucosa (the lining of the vagina or bowel) or into the bloodstream. Broken skin is more prone to allowing entry of HIV, including if other sexually transmissible infections are present, such as herpes and chlamydia. HIV can also pass from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or via breastmilk.
Read more about Early HIV Symptoms & Signs