HIV and AIDS | Symptoms


What are the symptoms of HIV syndrome?

When first infected with HIV, a person may not experience any symptoms. However, often a person will develop flu-like symptoms that last several weeks. These include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes (lymph glands)
  • Sore throat
  • Rash

If you have recently been infected with HIV, you might not realize it. The person you caught HIV from may not look or feel sick. And the signs and symptoms of HIV infection are similar to other illnesses, such as mononucleosis (mono), tonsillitis or the flu.

What are the symptoms of HIV?

As the disease progresses, symptoms may appear and/or get worse. This may take time. Some people who have HIV do not begin experiencing symptoms for up to 10 years. When symptoms do appear, they can include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes (lymph glands)
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unintended weight loss

Is HIV infection different in women and men?

HIV infection is mostly the same for men and women. For a long time after becoming infected, the person seems healthy. Over many years, the person's immune system gradually becomes weaker until it is unable to fight off other infections.

The difference between men and women is that HIV-infected women often have additional problems such as repeated vaginal yeast infections, especially as the immune system becomes weaker. More serious infections, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (an infection of a woman's internal reproductive organs), can be harder to treat. Diseases of the cervix, such as precancer (dysplasia) and cancer, progress faster. They can be harder to treat if a woman has HIV.


How to Recognize and Treat Acute HIV Syndrome by BL Perlmutter, M.D., Ph.D., JB Glaser, M.D., and SO Oyugi, M.D. (American Family Physician August 01, 1999,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 01/96