Do I Have HIV? Learn About 11 Early Signs of Infection

Early Signs of HIV

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  • Cause for concern?

    Cause for concern?

    When it comes to HIV infection, it’s important to know what early symptoms to look for. Early detection of the infection can help ensure that you receive prompt treatment to control the virus, and possibly slow the progression into AIDS.

    Click through the slideshow to learn what to watch for.

    See a visualization of how HIV affects the body »

  • Warning signs

    Warning signs

    Depending on the phase of the infection, symptoms of HIV can vary. Initially, most people who contract the illness experience common flu-like symptoms that may be hard to distinguish from a more general flu or a gastrointestinal or respiratory infection.

    This first stage of HIV is known as acute or primary HIV infection. It’s also called acute retroviral syndrome (ARS).

    Know the symptoms of HIV in men »

  • Specific symptoms

    Specific symptoms

    A number of symptoms associated with the flu may be the first to arise as early signs of HIV. These include:

    • headache
    • fever
    • tiredness
    • swollen lymph nodes
    • rash

    Other possible symptoms are muscle and joint pain, sore throat, and ulcers in the mouth or on the genitals. Some people also experience night sweats and diarrhea. 


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  • Timetable


    Early HIV symptoms generally arise within one to two months of being infected, although according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) they can arrive as early as two weeks after exposure, and as late as three months post-infection.

    However, some people experience no early symptoms after they have been infected with HIV.

  • Am I contagious?

    Am I contagious?

    Though you may only have had the virus for a short while, you are contagious when you have primary HIV infection. During this phase, your bloodstream contains higher levels of HIV, which makes it easy to transmit it to others.

    Since not everyone has early symptoms of HIV, it’s crucial to get tested if you think you may have been exposed to the virus.

  • Other considerations

    Other considerations

    When it comes to HIV symptoms, it’s important to remember that it’s not always HIV itself that makes you feel sick. Many HIV symptoms, particularly the most severe ones, arise from what are called opportunistic infections.

    The microorganisms responsible for these infections are generally kept at bay in people who have an intact immune system.

    However, when the immune system is impaired, these germs can attack your body and cause illness. Also, those who show no symptoms during early HIV infection may become symptomatic and begin to feel sick once they progress toward developing AIDS.

  • What happens next?

    What happens next?

    Primary HIV infection is followed by a chronic or latent phase, during which time the virus becomes less active though it’s still in your body. This period of latency can last a decade or longer.

    Many people show no symptoms of HIV infection during this entire 10-year period. However, once HIV becomes AIDS, symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and fever may become apparent.