HIV guide

HIV signs and symptoms


HIV can be asymptomatic (no symptoms) for 10 or more years before the immune system deteriorates, and signs and symptoms become more apparent...ultimately resulting in AIDS. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five (20%) people with HIV are unaware of their infection, and may be unknowingly transmitting the virus to others...that's why getting tested is so important.

If you do show symptoms within two to four weeks of initial exposure to HIV infections, they may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms (including headaches, muscle aches, sore throat, fever, chills and night sweats)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rash on the abdomen, arms, legs and face
  • Swollen lymph glands

In later years, as immune cells are destroyed by the virus, additional symptoms may include:

  • Various mild Infections
  • Diarrhea or weight loss
  • Chronic coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Skin rashes or lesions

As HIV spreads and the immune system is continually weakened, symptoms may also include:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Mouth sores or gingivitis (gum disease)
  • Oral thrush (white lesions in the mouth and on the tongue)
  • Other fungal infections on the skin or nails
  • Dementia
  • Certain types of cancer

Last reviewed by Lisa Oldson, MD, January 2011.

Lisa Oldson, MD

STD expert

"The first thing I tell a patient about STDs is that if you're worried about one STD, you should probably worry about all STDs. In other words, if you had unprotected sex and you're worried about a possible HIV exposure, it's important to understand that hepatitis can be spread in the same fashion...ditto for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis."

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