Other viral infections such as herpes and shingles (reactivated chickenpox) can affect AIDS patients. Herpes often appears as sores in and around the mouth. These sores are red and white, painful, and infectious. Sometimes these are referred to as “cold sores.”
Shingles can happen to anyone who previously had chickenpox. Chickenpox appears as red, itchy blisters on the skin. These lesions are contagious to people who are not immunized to the virus. While most people recover from chickenpox, however, the virus never completely goes away. It becomes inactivated or “latent” until the immune system is weakened. The reactivated virus causes rashes known as shingles, which is more painful and lasts for several weeks as compared to chickenpox rashes.
Rapid weight loss
While some people would be excited to drop several kilograms in a short period of time, this is a bad sign for people with infections. Rapid weight loss is a tell-tale sign of serious diseases such as tuberculosis, AIDS, and cancer.
Factors that contribute to weight loss include stress, poor nutrition, and dehydration. People who are sick tend to be bedridden or need to be quarantined. Because of this, they typically cannot exercise to maintain their muscle mass. Additionally, many medications can cause nausea and loss of appetite. When HIV infection progresses into AIDS, the body burns more calories than normal. This leads to wasting and weight loss, which can further weaken the immune system and body.
Swollen lymph nodes
Generally, when the body encounters an infection, our lymph nodes feel warm and get slightly larger. Commonly felt lymph nodes are the ones on the neck below the jawline. Other lymph nodes are located near the armpit and groin. These nodes can be felt when we are sick because this is where white blood cells are stored and lymph fluid is filtered. Usually, the nodes closest to the site of infection become swollen. For example, a throat infection will present with swollen nodes around the neck rather than in the armpit or groin area.
Normally, the swelling is minimal and temporary. However, with HIV infection, swollen lymph nodes feel firm and last for weeks to months. These swollen nodes may feel painful or uncomfortable when touched. Many other viral infections are self-limiting, therefore lymph node swelling goes away after several days. However, with HIV, there is no cure and the lymph nodes continue to stay swollen.