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HIV/AIDS Symptoms

Symptom-Free Period
Becoming infected with HIV and becoming sick from AIDS are two different events (read about the difference between HIV and AIDS). For most people, it takes many years from the time someone is infected with HIV to the time that they develop symptoms of AIDS. Some people get sick sooner and others stay well longer, especially with treatment. However, there is almost always a significant period of time after infection when an HIV-positive individual will have no symptoms at all -- often 10 years or more.

Keeping in mind the two separate events (becoming HIV-infected vs. actually developing AIDS) can help you to remember that there are also two separate time periods when someone may show symptoms related to HIV-infection.

Acute Viral Syndrome
The first time period is during the first few weeks after infection from HIV. Some people who are newly infected may develop flu-like symptoms within the first month or so after getting HIV. These early symptoms can feel very much like the flu (fever, headache, weakness, fatigue, body aches, etc.), and they can be mild or severe. The flu-like symptoms typically last for only about week, and then go away on their own. Acute Viral Syndrome is not an ongoing condition that lasts for weeks and weeks or that comes and goes over a long period of time. In addition, it's important to know that:
  1. Not everyone who is infected with HIV will experience these early, flu-like symptoms of Acute Viral Syndrome. Many people will have no symptoms at all until years after infection.

  2. The symptoms of Acute Viral Syndrome are the same as the symptoms for the flu and many other illnesses. If you have these symptoms right after a possible exposure to HIV, it does not mean you that have the virus, or even that you probably have it. The only way to find out if you have HIV is to get an HIV test.
Symptoms of AIDS
Because AIDS is a disorder of the immune system, it makes people sick by making their bodies vulnerable to a wide variety of illnesses (opportunistic infections), each with its own symptoms. For this reason, there isn't a simple checklist of "AIDS symptoms". Two people who are both sick with AIDS can have completely different sets of symptoms (or even no symptoms at all).

If you have symptoms that are bothering you or that aren't going away, your best option is to be checked by a health care provider. Any symptom that could be a sign of AIDS could also be a sign of something else. Again, the only way to know if you are HIV-positive is to take an HIV test.

Last Updated on Monday, April 30 2012

 

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