It is not know for certain what the actual risk for contracting HIV is after one has been exposed to the bodily fluids of another person who is suffering from the illness. Sexual activity provides a high risk for transmission however anal sex without the use of a condom presents the highest possibility for contraction of the illness.
The risk of infection may be estimated at 3-5 percent for each time that the person is exposed. The risk is less for vaginal intercourse and is further lowered when oral sex is carried out without the use of a condom. HIV can occur from being exposed to the virus on even one occasion therefore consistent protective measures should be carried out at all times.
Throughout the developing stages of the infection, there are copies of the HIV particles produced in the blood on a daily basis. The increased production of these particles is also correlated with a decline the number of protective immune cells over the progression of the disease. It has been proposed that the virus is acting directly on the cells and of the body and the body must work hard to try and eliminate these cells, which explains the decline in the healthy immune cells. The virus is not only found in the blood but is also evident in the lymph nodes, the brain, the genital secretions and throughout the entire body.
The time frame that exists between the actual HIV infection and the development of the AIDS is variable. Sometimes people can remain free of the symptoms up to twenty years while others develop the symptoms within a year. If there is not antiretroviral therapy being used, the time for the progression of the illness can be from eight to ten years on average.
Within the first few weeks of contraction of the illness, people may develop symptoms of an acute infection which may include influenza types of symptoms. These symptoms are fever aching muscles and joints, sore throat and swollen lymph glands. People who experience these symptoms will usually become symptom free after this initial stage of the infection.
After this period, most people will not display symptoms for a period of years. It is during this time that the immune systems good cells begin to decline. The patient may develop mild symptoms of infection such as nail or vaginal infections. There may be other symptoms such as hairy leukoplakia of the tongue, rashes, fatigue, fever, and weight loss. There is now a risk for the development of more severe problems such as malignant tumors, severe weight loss and a lowered mental function. With the use of current antiretroviral therapy, patients can be restored to an excellent state of health in most cases.