HIV Symptoms: Everything you need to know about HIV symptoms

HIV symptoms 


HIV symptoms can be difficult to spot in the early stages of infection given that they closely mimic a flu. 

The symptoms of HIV will also depend on the stage of infection. HIV progresses in three stages including: 

  1. Acute HIV infection
  2. Clinical latency 
  3. AIDS

HIV symptoms usually appear 2-4 weeks after initial infection.

Two thirds of people who are infected with HIV will experience symptoms.  In those who do experience symptoms, the symptoms will usually last anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks. 

Symptoms of acute HIV infection 

  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Rash
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, do not panic immediately. HIV symptoms may be similar to other illnesses, including a common flu. Airing on the side of caution however, if you do think that you have been exposed to HIV, it is so important to get a test as soon as possible. 


Symptoms of clinical latency 

There are usually no symptoms during the clinical latency stage. 

If symptoms do occur, they may include

  • Coughing or breathing difficulties
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea 
  • Fatigue 
  • High Fever 

Clinical latency is the name given to the period in which there is a slow reduction in the number of CD4 T cells and a gradual increase in HIV particles in the blood. 

HIV continues to multiply during this stage, but at a slower rate than acute HIV infection. 

Clinical latency generally starts 6 weeks after the initial HIV infection, however, this varies from person to person. 

If left untreated, a person can remain in this stage for 10-15 years, however, some people will move through this stage faster than others. 

If HIV is diagnosed during clinical latency, it is still possible to effectively manage it and lower your risk of passing the virus to another person through ART therapy. 

Symptoms of AIDs

AIDs, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is the name given to late stage HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). 

It generally takes 8-10 years for HIV to progress to AIDs. Those living with AIDs will experience a severely weakened immune system. 

Some of the symptoms of AIDs include

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Recurring fever or profuse night sweats
  • Extreme and unexplained tiredness
  • Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
  • Sores of the mouth, anus, or genitals
  • Pneumonia
  • Red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
  • Memory loss, depression, and other neurologic disorders

What is usually the first sign of HIV?

Though it varies from person to person, fever is usually the first of HIV. 

Fever may last anywhere between one week and a month

The first sign of HIV usually closely mirrors flu-like symptoms. Some of the other primary symptoms of HIV may include a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes. 

How long can you live with HIV without knowing?

Theoretically, you could live with HIV for 10-15 years without knowing that you have the infection. 

The clinical latency period or “chronic HIV infection” is often referred to as asymptomatic HIV infection due to the lack of symptoms. 

How long can you stay undetectable? 

If medication is taken correctly you could remain undetectable for life. You may be asking, what does it mean to be undetectable? If given an “undetectable” status, it means that the volume of HIV in your blood or “viral load” is undetectable in the blood.

If a person is classified as “durably undetectable” - it means that they have remained “undetectable” in the six months following your first undetectable result. If you are undetectable, it means that while you still have the virus you cannot pass it to another person. 

How can you lower your risk of getting HIV? 

No one is immune from the risk of contracting HIV. Anyone can get HIV, but understanding the risk factors can help to keep you safe. 

Some of the risk factors of HIV include: 

There are a number of risk factors for AIDs, as cited from the World Health Organisation such as:

  • having unprotected anal or vaginal sex;
  • having another sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhoea and bacterial vaginosis;
  • sharing contaminated needles, syringes and other injecting equipment and drug solutions when injecting drugs;
  • receiving unsafe injections, blood transfusions and tissue transplantation, and medical procedures that involve unsterile cutting or piercing; and
  • experiencing accidental needle stick injuries, including among health workers



Can you get HIV from kissing?

There is a low risk of getting AIDs from kissing someone. For this to happen, there would need to be some very specific factors at play. 

As we know, HIV can be passed from person to person when infected bodily fluids find their way into the body through open wounds or sores. 

To get HIV from kissing someone, you would need both partners to have open wounds in their mouth. Blood from an infected person would need to find its way out of an open wound in and into the open wound of the kissing partner’s mouth. HIV is not passed through saliva

How is HIV transmitted? 

HIV is transmitted through the transmission of infected bodily fluids from one person to another during unprotected sex, sharing contaminated needles, syringes and other injecting equipment receiving unsafe injections, blood transfusions and tissue transplantation, and medical procedures that involve unsterile cutting or piercing; and/or experiencing accidental needle stick injuries, including among health workers

How quickly can HIV be transmitted? 

Once someone if infected with AIDs, they are immediately contagious which means that you could theoretically get aids from them immediately.

How quickly do people infected with HIV develop AIDS?

HIV typically progresses to AIDs in 8-10 years. The good news is that most people will not progress to AIDs due to effective antiviral medications that are available to suppress the virus. 

Written by Hannah Kingston on May 17, 2021





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