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HIV infection - What are the symptoms of HIV infection?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Most people get some mild symptoms about two weeks to four weeks after they get infected with HIV. More serious symptoms usually don't happen until 10 years later.

You can easily miss the early symptoms because they're like the symptoms you get with other virus infections, such as flu. Once the early symptoms have cleared up, most people don't have any other signs of infections for many years. So it's hard to tell whether you have HIV.

It takes a long time for HIV to damage your immune system enough to make you sick. Most people show some signs of a weak immune system after about 10 years to 12 years.[3] Doctors call these later symptoms. But if you get treatment early, it may be much longer before you get these symptoms.

Early symptoms

Most people who get infected with HIV get some symptoms after a few weeks. They are like the symptoms you get with a cold or flu. Doctors call these early symptoms a seroconversion illness. It means your body is starting to make antibodies against HIV.[36] Antibodies are small particles that your immune system makes to help fight infections.

The symptoms of this stage usually last about three weeks and clear up without any treatment.

You may get:[5]

  • Fever

  • A rash

  • Headaches

  • A sore throat

  • Loss of appetite

  • Aching muscles and joints.

You might also have swollen lymph nodes (the glands in your armpits, groin, and neck) or keep getting cold sores.

Because some of these symptoms are so general, many people don't realise that they have been infected with HIV. But if you think that you may have caught HIV, you should go to your local genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic. This is important because:

  • If you do get a positive HIV test, you will get support and advice, including advice about when to start treatment

  • At this early stage you're very infectious, which means it's very easy for you to spread the virus to other people. If you know you have the virus you can stop spreading it to other people.[37]

Last Updated: August 15, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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