The symptoms of HIV and AIDS vary, depending on the phase of infection.
The majority of people infected by HIV develop a flu-like illness within a month or two after the virus enters the body. This illness, known as primary or acute HIV infection, may last for a few weeks. Possible signs and symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Mouth or genital ulcers
- Swollen lymph glands, mainly on the neck
- Joint pain
- Night sweats
Although the symptoms of primary HIV infection may be mild enough to go unnoticed, the amount of virus in the bloodstream (viral load) is particularly high at this time. As a result, HIV infection spreads more efficiently during primary infection than during the next stage of infection.
Clinical latent infection
In some people, persistent swelling of lymph nodes occurs during clinical latent HIV. Otherwise, there are no specific signs and symptoms. HIV remains in the body, however, and in infected white blood cells.
Clinical latent infection typically lasts eight to 10 years. A few people stay in this stage even longer, but others progress to more severe disease much sooner.
Early symptomatic HIV infection
As the virus continues to multiply and destroy immune cells, you may develop mild infections or chronic signs and symptoms such as:
- Swollen lymph nodes — often one of the first signs of HIV infection
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath
Progression to AIDS
If you receive no treatment for your HIV infection, the disease typically progresses to AIDS in about 10 years. By the time AIDS develops, your immune system has been severely damaged, making you susceptible to opportunistic infections — diseases that wouldn't trouble a person with a healthy immune system.
The signs and symptoms of some of these infections may include:
- Soaking night sweats
- Shaking chills or fever higher than 100 F (38 C) for several weeks
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic diarrhea
- Persistent white spots or unusual lesions on your tongue or in your mouth
- Persistent, unexplained fatigue
- Blurred and distorted vision
- Weight loss
- Skin rashes or bumps
When to see a doctor
If you think you may have been infected with HIV or are at risk of contracting the virus, see a health care provider as soon as possible.
May 20, 2014
- What is HIV/AIDS. AIDS.gov. http://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- FDA approves first medication to reduce HIV risk. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm311821.htm. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/hivaids/understanding/Pages/Default.aspx. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- Bartlett JG. When to initiate antiretroviral therapy in HIV-infected patients. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- Sax PE. Acute and early HIV infection: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- Pollack TM, et al. Primary care of HIV-infected adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- Bartlett JG. The stages and natural history of HIV infection. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- Living with HIV. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/living/index.html. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- Guidelines for prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections in HIV-infected adults and adolescents. National Institutes of Health. http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/guidelines/html/4/adult-and-adolescent-oi-prevention-and-treatment-guidelines/0. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- Neurological complications of AIDS fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/aids/detail_aids.htm. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- Eating defensively: Food safety advice for persons with AIDS. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForPatientAdvocates/HIVandAIDSActivities/ucm135844.htm. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- Natural medicines in the clinical management of HIV/AIDS. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- HIV/AIDS programs: Find HIV/AIDS care. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://hab.hrsa.gov/gethelp/index.html. Accessed Dec. 8, 2013.
- Common side effects of HIV medicines. American Family Physician. 2011;83:1456.
- Preexposure prophylaxis for the prevention of HIV infection in the United States — 2014 clinical practice guideline. Atlanta, Ga. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/guidelines/PrEPguidelines2014.pdf?elq=0a349f52dfa74f48ae554056bc0e027e&elqCampaignId=8040. Accessed May 16, 2014.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.