When do early HIV symptoms first appear?

Answer From Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.

Early HIV symptoms most often appear 2 to 4 weeks after a person catches the virus. The symptoms can seem like a bad case of the flu. They often include:

  • Fever and chills.
  • Headache.
  • Tiredness.
  • Swollen lymph glands.
  • Rash.
  • Sore joints, muscles or throat.
  • Weight loss.

Early HIV symptoms are called acute retroviral syndrome or acute HIV infection. The symptoms are the body's natural response to the virus. Many people with HIV get flu-like symptoms of it early on, but some people don't. More-serious or longer lasting symptoms may not show up for years after a person first catches the virus.

The early symptoms of HIV often go away within a week to a month. The risk of spreading the virus is very high during this time. If you're concerned that you might have been exposed to HIV, talk to your health care provider about getting tested.

Treatment can help people with HIV lead long, healthy lives. The drugs that treat HIV also can lower the risk of passing the virus to a partner.


Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.

Jan. 11, 2023