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People with HIV don’t usually have symptoms right away, so they may not know they have it. It can be years before HIV makes you feel sick.

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Early HIV symptoms

People usually look and feel totally healthy for a long time after they’re infected. It can take 10 years or more for HIV to show any symptoms — or much, much longer than that for people who take HIV medicines. That's why it's really important to get tested for HIV regularly, especially if you’ve had unprotected sex or shared needles. HIV treatments can help you stay healthy much longer.

The first 2-4 weeks after being infected with HIV, you may feel feverish, achy, and sick. These flu-like symptoms are your body’s first reaction to the HIV infection. During this time, there’s a lot of the virus in your system, so it’s really easy to spread HIV to other people. The symptoms only last for a few weeks, and then you usually don’t have symptoms again for years.

Once you have HIV, you can give it to other people — whether or not you have symptoms or feel sick.

Later HIV/AIDS symptoms

HIV destroys cells in your immune system called CD4 cells or T cells. Without CD4 cells, your body has a hard time fighting off diseases. This makes you more likely to get really sick from infections that usually wouldn’t hurt you. Over time, the damage HIV does to your immune system leads to AIDS.

You have AIDS when you get rare infections (called opportunistic infections) or types of cancer, or if you’ve lost a certain number of CD4 cells. This usually happens about 10 years after getting HIV if you don’t get treatment. With treatment, it can take much longer to develop AIDS.

The signs of AIDS include:

  • Thrush (a thick, white coating on your tongue or mouth)

  • Sore throat

  • Bad yeast infections

  • Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease  

  • Getting bad infections a lot

  • Feeling really tired, dizzy, and lightheaded

  • Headaches

  • Losing lots of weight quickly

  • Bruising more easily than normal

  • Having diarrhea, fevers, or night sweats for a long time

  • Swollen or firm glands in your throat, armpit, or groin

  • Deep, dry coughing spells

  • Feeling short of breath

  • Purplish growths on your skin or inside your mouth

  • Bleeding from the mouth, nose, anus, or vagina

  • Skin rashes

  • Feeling very numb in your hands or feet, losing control of your muscles and reflexes, not being able to move, and losing strength in your muscles

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