7 Symptoms of the early stages of HIV

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Symptoms of HIV can vary 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

Man with a wet towel over the head looking at thermometer experiencing a fever

Fever is usually one of the first symptoms of HIV. When you have a fever your body temperature increases above a normal range, and often results in sweating, chills and shivering. Fever 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 blood stream and starting to replicate in large numbers. As that happens, your immune system induces an inflammatory reaction.

Symptom 2: Fatigue and headache

Man holding his head

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.

There are several things that can cause a person to feel fatigued, so pay attention to your body and your lifestyle to see if you can draw a conclusion. If your fatigue persists, seek advice from your doctor.

Symptom 3: Swollen lymph nodes, achy muscles and joint pain

A man clutching his groin with 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.

Given these symptoms are common across many viral infections, they alone are not a reliable way to determine if the infection you are experiencing is HIV.

Symptom 4: Skin rash

Man scratching red patch of skin

Skin rashes can occur early or late in the course of HIV seroconversion and can last between two and three weeks. The rash may start as feeling non-itchy, but in some cases, can appear similar to boils with itchy, pink breakouts.

Symptom 5: Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea

Man sitting on bed clutching his stomach in pain

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, and it would be best to seek the advice of a doctor to help determine its cause.

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. Any person with persistent symptoms such as these should see a doctor, especially if symptoms are worsening.

Symptom 7: Night sweats


Night sweats are repeated episodes of extreme sweating, causing bedding and any nightclothes to become soaked. 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.Get tested if symptoms of HIV appear

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.

If you’re in Sydney, you can get a rapid HIV test and STI check-up at a[TEST]. If you’re not in Sydney, you can still get a rapid HIV test and STI check-up using our ‘where to get tested’ tool here.