Symptoms of HIV can be different between individuals however the first signs of infection generally appear within the first 1-2 months. Many, but not all, people will experience severe flu-like symptoms which is your body’s natural response to the virus. This is called the ‘seroconversion’ period.
It’s during this time that it’s crucial to identify if HIV is the cause, as your viral load is very high which greatly increases the risk of passing it on. And the only way to know for sure is by getting tested.
Symptom 1: Fever
The fever, usually one of the first symptoms of HIV, is often accompanied by other mild symptoms, such as fatigue, swollen lymph glands, and a sore throat. At this point, the virus is moving into the bloodstream and starting to replicate in large numbers. As that happens, your immune system induces an inflammatory reaction.
Symptom 2: Fatigue and headache
The inflammatory response generated by your besieged immune system can cause you to feel tired and lethargic. Sometimes it can make you feel winded while walking or generally feel out of breath. Fatigue can be both an early and later symptom of HIV.
Symptom 3: Swollen lymph nodes, achy muscles and joint pain
Lymph nodes are part of your body’s immune system and protect your blood by getting rid of bacteria and viruses. They tend to get inflamed when there’s an infection. Many of them are located in your armpit, groin and neck which can result in aches and pains in these areas.
Symptom 4: Skin rash
Skin rashes can occur early or late in the course of HIV seroconversion. In some cases, the rash can appear similar to boils with itchy, pink breakouts.
Symptom 5: Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
Many people experience digestive system problems as a symptom of the early stages of HIV. However, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea can also appear in later stages of infection, usually as the result of an opportunistic infection.
It is important to stay hydrated. Diarrhoea that is unremitting and not responding to usual therapy might be an indication of HIV.
Symptom 6: Sore throat and dry cough
A severe, dry cough that can last for weeks to months without seeming to resolve (even with antibiotics and inhalers) is a typical symptom in very ill HIV patients.
Symptom 7: Night sweats
Many people will get night sweats during the early stages of HIV. These can be even more common later in infection and aren’t related to exercise or the temperature of the room.
With such a vast array of symptoms, HIV testing is vital to ensure a proper diagnosis. If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, or have an active sex life with casual sex partners, regardless of whether you are showing symptoms of HIV or not, it’s important to get tested as soon as possible.