Symptoms of HIV
Symptoms Of Early Stage Hiv Infection
Symptoms of HIV can be different from one person to another, and some people do not experience any symptoms at all.
If you think you might have been exposed to HIV, and if you have an active sex life with multiple partners, it’s important to get tested for a possible HIV infection. People usually feel and look completely healthy for a long period of time after they become infected.
Below you find the most common HIV symptoms. Many experience flu-like symptoms in the early onset of the infection that’s been called the sero-conversion period. The first signs of an HIV infection generally appear within the first 6 weeks.
During this time it’s very important to identify if HIV is the cause of the illness, the viral load is very high during this period which greatly increases the risk of infecting others. Getting tested is the only way to know for sure.
Overview of the 14 most common HIV symptoms
40% to 90% of people who die from HIV experience a flu-like symptoms. The symptoms of an HIV infection are also known as acute retroviral syndrome (ARS). Sometimes HIV symptoms are reported after a year after the HIV infection. In severe cases HIV might appear after 10 years. In the early stages of an HIV infection it is normal that none of the symptoms are visible.
HIV is much more common in the US than in Australia. Most of the people in the United States who are infected with HIV are not aware of it. This is why people should get testes on a regular basis.
If you are worried about HIV you should contact your doctor or conduct a HIV self-test. The information displayed on this site is not a recommendation which will replace a doctor’s advice. We have compiled a list of 16 HIV symptoms that occur the most. We want to provide you with information about HIV, but contact an expert immediately if you think you are at risk.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 1: fever
One of the first symptoms of HIV can be a slight fever, up to about 39 degrees. Fever does not always occur if you are HIV infected. If fever does occur, it is often accompanied by other mild symptoms of HIV, such as fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and sore throat.
The moment when the fever occurs, the virus has already entered the bloodstream and is already starting to multiply in large numbers. When that happens, an inflammatory response from the immune system takes place.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 2: fatigue
The inflammatory response of the immune system to HIV can also cause infected people to feel tired and listless. Fatigue can be both an early and later symptom of HIV. There have been cases of HIV in which the infected persons suddenly developed chronic fatigue syndrome – only 25 years after being tested positive for HIV. However, it is more common that it is an acute symptom of HIV that occurs in the short term.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 3: Muscle pain, joint pain and swollen lymph nodes
Symptoms HIV are often confused with flu, Pfeiffer’s disease, or other types of viral infection such as syphilis or hepatitis. It kind of makes sense: many of these symptoms are the same, especially joint pains and muscles and swollen lymph nodes. Lymph nodes play an important role in the immune system and often get infected with a viral infection. Many of the lymph nodes are located in the armpits, groin, and neck.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 4: Sore throat and headache
As with many other HIV symptoms, a sore throat and a headache can only be recognized as symptoms of HIV if there is a reason to suspect HIV. There are many ways to find out if you are infected. One of them is for example to get tests for HIV, using a HIV self-test. For people with acute sore throat and headache, who are involved in “high-risk behavior” like unprotected sex, an HIV self-test is advised. It is important to get tested in an early stage, this is because HIV is the most contagious in the first stages of the disease. Keep in mind that the body has not had time to produce antibodies to HIV, therefore an antibody test then makes no sense. It can take a few weeks or months for HIV antibodies to be found in a blood test. There are other test options, such as a viral RNA test. Viral RNA is usually found within nine days of the infection.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 5: skin rash
Skin rashes can occur early or late in the course of an HIV / AIDS infection. For some people who also experience other HIV symptoms, skin rash is an indication that there is more to it than just an allergy or cold. If the rash is not easy to explain or easy to treat, an HIV self-test may be sensible.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 6: Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
29% to 65% of people with an HIV infection develop nausea, vomiting or diarrhea in a very short time. These symptoms of HIV occur in the early stages of HIV.
These symptoms can also occur as a result of antiretroviral therapy (HIV medication). These symptoms can also occur in later stages of the infection – usually as a result of an opportunistic infection.
If the diarrhea that does not go away and does not respond at all to conventional therapy then it can be an indication of HIV. HIV symptoms can be caused by an organism that is usually not a problem in people with a healthy immune system. An example is Candida Albicans. Usually Candida is not a problem for people with a healthy immune system, but for people with AIDS it can mean that they can die of it.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 7: weight loss
Weight loss is a symptom of an advanced HIV infection. It may be partly due to severe chronic diarrhea when food does not get the chance to be absorbed by the body.
By the time weight loss is noticed, the immune system is usually pretty exhausted. Some HIV patients lose a lot of weight, even if they try to eat as much as possible. Today, medicines can help with this. Medical cannabis is promising because it stimulates appetite in a natural way.
In severe cases, people lose 10% or more of their body weight and suffer from diarrhea, fatigue and fever for more than 30 days.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 8: tickling cough
A dry tickling cough is sometimes one of the first symptoms of HIV. When the cough is caused by HIV, drugs such as antibiotics and allergy drugs do not help. This symptom is typical in very sick HIV patients.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 9: pneumonia
Cough and weight loss can indicate a serious bacterial infection. The bacterial infection could never cause so many problems with an immune system that works well. There are many multiple “opportunistic” infections that make use of the fact that the immune system is weakened by the HIV virus. An example of this is pneumonia. Other opportunistic infections are toxoplasmosis (a parasitic infection that affects the brain), cytomegalovirus (a type of herpes virus) and fungal infections such as Candida.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 10: “sweating at night
About half of people with HIV experience sweating at night during the early stages of the infection.
This symptom of HIV is even more common in later stages. Sweating is not related to exercise or the temperature of the room. The sweating is similar to the hot flashes that women sometimes experience during the menopause. It is an HIV symptom that is difficult to escape attention, given that the bed linen and sheets get considerably wet.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 11: fungal infections
A fungal infection that is common in later stages of infection is thrush. Thrush is a mouth infection that is caused by Candida, a type of yeast. Candida is a common yeast that causes fungal infections. It mainly occurs with women, but also with men. Thrush occurs in the mouth or esophagus, making it difficult to swallow.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 12: Cold sores or genital herpes
Cold sores (oral herpes) and genital herpes can be symptoms or HIV. Moreover, having herpes is a risk factor for contracting HIV. This is because genital herpes causes ulcers. These sores make it easy for HIV to be transmitted during sex. People with HIV and herpes get more severe and more frequent herpes outbreaks than people with herpes without HIV. This is also because the immune system is weakened.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 13: Tingling in the hands and feet
HIV can also cause numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. This is called “peripheral neuropathy.” It also occurs in people with diabetes. This happens when the nerves are damaged. These symptoms of HIV can be treated with pain killers and anti-epileptic drugs.
Symptoms HIV – symptom # 14: irregular menstruation
HIV infection appears to increase the chance of irregular menstruation. However, these changes are probably more to do with weight loss and poor health than with the infection itself. HIV infection is also associated with a slightly younger menopause age. The average age is between 47-48 years for infected women compared to 49-51 years for healthy women.
HIV infection chances
Several studies have attempted to calculate the exact risk of HIV transmission through sexual contact. This isn’t easy because every exposure to HIV varies on many different factors, they are all unique and they carry their own unique risk. Some sexual activities pose a greater HIV transmission risk than others.
Below you will find the average of these studies, which will give you a reasonably reliable figure, but keep in mind that an infection in an early stage in more infectueus and can give you an estimation which can be 10 times higher than the average seen below.
RISK OF HIV TRANSMISSION
Average risk estimate (from one time exposure)
Receptive anal sex 1.4%
Insertive anal sex 0.11%
Receptive vaginal sex 0.08%
Insertive vaginal sex 0.04%