AIDS Home > Early Symptoms of HIV

In many cases, early symptoms of HIV resemble a flu-like illness. However, in other cases, they may not appear at all. It often takes months to years before the signs and symptoms of HIV infection appear, but this varies from person to person. As the infection progresses, early symptoms of the infection can worsen to HIV symptoms such as weight loss, extreme fatigue, short-term memory loss, and more.

Early Signs and Symptoms of HIV

Like many people, you probably will not have any early HIV symptoms if you are infected with the virus. You may, however, have a flu-like illness within a month or two after exposure. This illness can include:
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (glands of the immune system easily felt in the neck and groin).
These early HIV symptoms usually disappear within a week to a month, and are often mistaken for those of another viral infection. During this period, people are highly infectious, and HIV is present in large quantities in genital fluids.

More Definite Early HIV Symptoms

More persistent or severe symptoms may not appear for 10 years or more after HIV first enters the body in adults, or within 2 years in children born with HIV infection. This period of "asymptomatic" (without symptoms) infection varies greatly in each individual. Some people may begin to have more early symptoms of HIV within a few months, while others may be symptom-free for more than 10 years.
Even during the asymptomatic period, the virus is actively multiplying, infecting, and killing cells of the immune system. The virus can also hide within infected cells and lie dormant. The most obvious effect of HIV infection is a decline in the number of CD4+ T-cells found in the blood -- the immune system's key infection fighters. The virus slowly disables or destroys these cells, often without causing early symptoms of HIV.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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