What are the symptoms of HIV?


If you think you may have been infected with HIV, find a place to get a free, confidential HIV test. If you are worried about a recent potential exposure, talk to your doctor or come to Strut (if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area) right away to find out about PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis). PEP can prevent HIV infection in someone who has been recently exposed to HIV if it’s started within 72 hours (3 days) of the possible infection.

You can have HIV and not have any symptoms, and some HIV tests will not show a positive result for as long as 3 months after infection. This is referred to as the HIV test window period, and has to do with how HIV tests detect the virus.

Some people recently infected with HIV will experience some "flu-like" symptoms. These might include:

  • Fever
  • Severe Fatigue
  • A non-itchy rash
  • Swollen glands/lymph nodes
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Night sweats
  • Sores or ulcers in your mouth

Acute HIV Infection Stage

This is called "acute retroviral syndrome," or "primary HIV infection" and can last from a few days to a few weeks. You could get sick enough to go to the emergency room or just feel a little unwell. It's important to remember that people experience similar symptoms and it's not related to HIV. Sometimes, the flu is just the flu.

Clinical Latency Stage

After the acute phase, the virus typically becomes less active in the body for as long as 10 years, during which you might have no symptoms at all. An HIV test will detect the virus during this period. This is one of the reasons that it's important for sexually active people to routinely get tested—the signs of HIV infection are easy to miss or misinterpret.


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