Understanding and Managing HIV Fever

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP on October 11, 2016Written by Kerry Ludlam on September 29, 2014

What is HIV fever?

Like many viruses, HIV can affect different people in different ways. If you contract HIV, you might experience persistent or occasional symptoms. Also, your symptoms might be mild or severe.

Your overall health, the stage of your infection, and the steps you take to manage your condition can all affect your symptoms.

One of the most common symptoms of HIV is fever, which happens when your body temperature is higher than normal. Several different things can cause HIV-related fever. Learn about the potential causes and when you should seek treatment.

What causes HIV-related fevers?

People with HIV can develop a fever for a variety of reasons. You can develop a fever as part of an adverse reaction to medications. Fevers can also be symptomatic of many conditions unrelated to HIV, such as the flu.

Other causes include:

Acute HIV

If you’ve recently become infected with HIV, you’re considered to be in the initial phase of infection. This stage of infection is often called acute or primary HIV infection.

You will likely begin to show symptoms of HIV within two to four weeks after contracting the virus. Recurrent or persistent fevers may be one of the first symptoms you experience. Your fever may also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as:

  • swollen lymph nodes
  • night sweats
  • fatigue
  • sore throat
  • rash

Fevers are a normal immune response to viral infections. If you have an acute HIV infection, persistent fever is a sign that your immune system is still functioning relatively well.

Opportunistic infection

If you’ve had HIV for a longer period of time, or you’ve developed AIDS, persistent fevers can be a sign of an opportunistic infection.

An opportunistic infection is one that occurs because you have a weakened immune system. When your immune system is healthy, it can fight off many infections. When it’s impaired by HIV, it may be less able to fend off certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi. As a result, you may develop an opportunistic infection.

There are several different types of opportunistic infections that can range from minor to extremely serious. Examples include:

  • pneumonia
  • tuberculosis
  • some types of bronchitis
  • cytomegalovirus
  • lymphoma
  • herpes simplex
  • candidiasis, also known as thrush
  • herpes esophagitis
  • invasive cervical cancer

How long will your fever last?

The length of your fever will depend on its cause and the steps you take to manage it.

The initial stage of HIV can last from months to years. Within that time period, you may experience intermittent fevers that last anywhere from two to four weeks.

If your fever is related to an opportunistic infection, its length will depend on the type of infection, the treatment you receive, and your overall condition.

If your fever is caused by medication that you’re taking, its length will depend on the medication, how long you take it for, and your overall condition.

When should you go to the doctor?

Most fevers are not serious and resolve on their own. But in some cases, fever can be a sign of a serious issue that requires treatment. Your doctor can help you identify the cause of your fever and prescribe appropriate treatment.

If you suspect you’ve been exposed to HIV, make an appointment with your doctor. If you’re experiencing recurrent fevers or other symptoms, it may be a sign of an acute HIV infection. Ask your doctor about HIV testing.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with HIV, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as you develop a fever. It may be a sign of an opportunistic infection or problems with your medication regimen. If left untreated, your condition might become worse.

How will your doctor treat your fever?

In many cases, hydration and rest are all it takes to treat a fever. Depending on its severity and cause, your doctor may also recommend other treatments. For example, they may recommend over-the-counter medication, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

If you have an opportunistic infection, your doctor may prescribe antivirals, antibiotics, or other types of medication. If they suspect your fever is caused by medication, they may adjust your drug regimen.

Your outlook will depend on the severity and cause of your fever. In many cases, early diagnosis and treatment can help improve your outlook. Ask your doctor for more information about your specific condition, treatment options, and outlook.

CMS Id: 73174