HIV Symptoms in Women

HIV is a sexually transmitted virus that can affect both men and women. Unfortunately, women are at a greater risk of contracting the virus than men since it can enter through tears in the vaginal lining. HIV positive women also have to consider the risk of passing the virus onto their child if pregnant or if nursing. So, while it is important for all people who are at risk for HIV to be tested, it is especially important for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Do keep in mind, however, that you can protect yourself and your unborn child, if pregnant, from HIV by avoiding unprotected sexual contact of any kind, including vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

HIV Symptoms in Women

Women account for around 43% of all new HIV infections diagnosed each year. Unfortunately, many women are unaware of the fact that they have been infected with HIV because not all infected persons will have any symptoms after infection. With that said, however, women are more likely to demonstrate early symptoms than their male counterparts. Because symptoms can vary from person to person, though, and because they may not occur at all in some people, symptoms should never be used as a reliable indicator of the presence or lack of HIV. Also, even without symptoms, an infected woman may still pass the virus onto others or to an unborn or nursing child.

There are some symptoms of HIV that can be experienced by both men and women. These include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Swollen, tender, or painful lymph nodes
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Rapid, unexplained weight loss
  • Neurological problems

Other symptoms are unique to women only. These include:

  • Frequent and severe vaginal yeast infections
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle
  • Unexplained abnormal pap smears
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease

Many of these symptoms and conditions can be indicative of other problems, so they should never be used to diagnose HIV. The only way to know for sure if you have contracted HIV is through HIV testing performed by a healthcare professional.

Getting Tested

Because of the unfortunate stigma attached to HIV and even to being at risk for HIV, many women are fearful of and/or avoid getting tested. However, testing is vital for anyone who may have been exposed to HIV, and that includes anyone who has ever had unprotected sex.

Women are strongly urged to visit their doctors for testing if they think they may be at risk of HIV. However, if a woman feels uncomfortable requesting testing from her general physician, there are other testing options available, which may include:

  • Private clinics
  • Clinics held through schools or workplaces
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Gynecologist practices
  • Pregnancy specialists
  • Women’s Health facilities

If left untested, undiagnosed, and untreated, HIV will almost definitely progress into its more serious form: AIDS. However, modern science and medicine have made it so that those who seek treatment for HIV have a greatly increased chance of living long and healthy lives than those who do not seek medical assistance.