Early Stage Symptoms of HIV

Flu-like symptoms are generally the most early warning signs of an HIV infection.

After a possible exposure to HIV you should get tested. Here you can read about the early symptoms of HIV infection, keep in mind that these symptoms are very commonly experienced during regular colds and flu.

Some people who become HIV positive do not notice any symptoms (about 80 % of the patients experience early symptoms of HIV). If you do get early symptoms of HIV, they will be present in the first 6 weeks after infection.

You will be more likely to infect others during this time, due to a high viral load that is present in the blood during this period.
You can experience a short ‘flu-like’ disease when you are first infected with HIV, as your immune system struggles with fighting the virus.


Fever: It mostly starts with a high fever which may be accompanied by mouth ulcers and a sore throat.


Tiredness: Fatigue could be an early symptom of HIV. It is mostly related to psychological factors, such as anxiety, life stress, and depression.


Sore throat: People living with HIV may experience a recurring or chronic sore throat, it’s also common to develop thrush.


Diarrhoea: Vomiting and diarrhoea during seroconversion illness is less common, but is still an early symptom of HIV infection.

Swollen glands:
These usually appear in the armpits, groin area and neck. The nodes will disappear and return later on, and can last for 3 months.


Joint/ muscle pain: People with this infection complain often about muscle and joint aches or stiffness.

Skin rash:
The rash (red covered in bumps) appears anywhere on the body, but mostly it’s located on the chest, palms and on the face, or it appears as ulcers on the genitals or in the mouth.


Weight loss: Many people experience difficulties with eating and chewing, which causes a rapid loss of weight.


You may develop a headache, feel unsteady on your feet, have difficulty concentrating and feel weak. If you suspect you may be at risk of being infected with HIV, do not have unprotected sex until you are sure about your health. If you have recently been exposed to HIV (unprotected sex or injecting drugs), you are advised to get tested.

Untreated HIV infection will get worse over time and will eventually progress into AIDS.


CD4+T cells are important infection fighters. When HIV enters the body, the virus starts to destroy these cells. Over time the decline in T-cells cause the immune system to shut down, resulting in opportunistic infections in the body. Without treatment and medication the virus will eventually progress into AIDS.

Symptoms of AIDS can include:

  • Shortness of breath and coughing
  • Painful or difficult swallowing
  • Coma
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Vision loss
  • Fever
  • Mental symptoms such as confusion and forgetfulness
  • Nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps
  • Lack of coordination and seizures
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent, severe diarrhea
  • Severe headaches

AIDS related opportunistic infections:

Liver Disease — Among AIDS patients liver disease is one of the most common causes of death, mostly caused by the virus hepatitis B and C.

Tuberculosis (TB) — An often deadly bacterial infection that infects the lungs. Tuberculosis is passed on when infected people sneeze or cough, releasing infectious microscopic particles in the air. By inhaling these particles people can become infected.

Herpes Simplex — A virus that causes genital herpes, with painful blisters in the genital area. Chronic herpes simplex virus is common in advanced stages of AIDS.


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