The Truth About HIV Symptoms in Women

The Truth About HIV Symptoms in Women

HIV symptoms are broad, general, and can be mistaken for lots of other health conditions. The body only has so many ways to signal that it’s under attack; fever, sore throat, muscle aches, rashes…is it the flu? Is it HIV? It’s hard to know.

And doing a quick google search for HIV symptoms can be scary, misleading, or overly clinical. Plus, a lot of the information available online doesn’t acknowledge that there may be symptoms women experience that men can’t. The focus of the media when it comes to HIV/AIDS has been mostly male-centric since the early days of the disease. And unfortunately, a lot of the information available online continues this assumption and uses male symptoms as the standard, ignoring information specifically for women. Crazy, right?

The truth is, women can and do become infected with HIV/AIDS every day. HIV is the leading cause of death worldwide among women of reproductive age and half of adults living with HIV worldwide are women (UNAIDS).

Even so, the symptoms of HIV are mostly the same for men and women and can vary from person to person. So, if you think you may have been exposed to the disease or if you’re experiencing troubling symptoms, go see your healthcare provider right away.

General HIV symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Mouth sores
  • Muscle Aches
  • Night Sweats
  • Rash
  • Sore Throat
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes

Chances are if you are a human person, you’ve experienced one if not many of the above symptoms. Experiencing one or more of these symptoms does not mean you have HIV, but if you think you might be experiencing HIV related symptoms, you should get an HIV test to know for sure.

Even though symptoms vary from person to person, there are a few symptoms that can only effect women.

For instance, changes in your period can be an HIV related symptom. You may have lighter or heavier bleeding, skip periods, or have really bad PMS. This can be caused by the stress your body is under or by the virus’s effects on your immune system, which can affect your hormones.

Women may also have lower belly pain as a result of HIV related complications. It’s one of the signs of an infected uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). For some women, it’s one of the first red flags they have HIV.

Vaginal yeast infections are also common in the early stages of the virus. Along with PID, yeast infections can also be one of the first signs that you have HIV because your body’s immune system is weakened and can’t fight off infections on its own.  

But again, many of these symptoms are common and can signal other health issues. So, if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, go see your healthcare provider and make sure to get an HIV test so that you can get the care you need.

Women deserve access to the most up to date information when it comes to HIV/AIDS prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. There are still heavy biases and harmful assumptions about women and sexuality in the US and around the globe that can keep women from accessing the information they need to stay safe and remain healthy. Don’t let stigma stand in the way of your healthcare. If you think you’re experiencing HIV related symptoms, get tested today.

About: AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is a global nonprofit organization providing cutting-edge medicine and advocacy to over 1,000,000 people in 43 countries. We are currently the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the world.