What does the flu, pneumonia and HIV have in common?

The flu and pneumonia have similar initial symptoms as HIV. File photo.

by Mary Turner
HIV/AIDS Medical Columnist

It’s the New year, and like any self-respecting former teacher, I’m going to start it off by giving you a pop quiz. This is done completely out of love, the way they always are.

I’m going to give you three sets of symptoms, and you get to identify what causes them.

Set #1: Fever, chills, cough, sore throat, body or muscle aches, headache, fatigue, vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Now, set #2: Fever, chills, fatigue, clammy or sweaty skin, loss of appetite, chest pain.

And finally, set #3: Cough, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, nausea and/or diarrhea, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, belly pain.

Your options for causes of these symptoms are flu, pneumonia and HIV.

If you find some remarkable similarities in these symptoms, you’re very astute. There is a great deal of overlap among them. These similar symptoms can cause tremendous problems for the person suffering from them, especially if they choose not to see a doctor (or perhaps can’t afford one).

Besides the symptoms that are very similar, the outcome of contracting one of these illnesses and leaving it untreated is they potentially can kill you. People often underestimate the flu, but about 56,000 people die each year from complications. By contrast, auto accidents claim around 40,000 people every year.

Pneumonia impacts about three million people every year with about a third of them being sick enough to need hospital care. On average, 50,000 people die each year from pneumonia.

The stats for 2014 indicate that 12,333 people died from AIDS and another 6,721 from HIV. So, not only do the killers mentioned above share many symptoms, about one out of every seven people in the U.S. haven’t been tested and don’t even know they are HIV+.

The answers to the quiz are that symptoms in set #1 are associated with the flu. If you haven’t had a flu shot yet, it’s not too late to get one. Contrary to popular myth, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. And even if you do still get the flu, it will be less severe because you have some protection against it.

Symptoms in set #2 belong to pneumonia. Breathing is extremely important to us all, but pneumonia takes over the spaces in the lungs reserved for air and fills them up with fluid. Untreated, you could drown in your mucus, and that’s no way to start a New Year.

That means set #3 belongs to HIV. Whether you’re someone who makes the standard New Year’s resolution, “I’ll give up sex and food and partying, and I’ll work out every day,” or you don’t make resolutions, resolve to take care of yourself and live a healthy life in 2019.

Get a flu shot, and pneumonia shot to protect yourself from these potential killers. Get yourself tested often and begin a treatment regimen immediately if you test positive for HIV. Stay on your treatment regimen once you start it. Many people love you and want you to be well. For those who don’t love you, your being well will piss them off.

Happy New Year! Make it a good one.

Copyright The Gayly – January 17, 2019 @ 10:30 a.m. CST.