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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. Treatment can delay or even prevent you from ever developing 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

More questions from patients:

What are some symptoms of AIDS in women?

Like many STDs, AIDS symptoms in women are quite similar to the symptoms of AIDS in all genders.

AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). People with HIV may have symptoms in the very beginning of their infection, like swollen glands, fever, headaches, and muscle soreness.

You may not have any symptoms at all for up to 10 years. At that point, HIV begins to make it hard for your body to fight off infections, so you can get infections that normally wouldn’t affect you.

When your immune system reaches a certain point of weakness, that’s when HIV becomes AIDs.

The symptoms of AIDS in women include:

  • thrush — a thick, whitish coating of your tongue or mouth that’s caused by a yeast infection and sometimes accompanied by a sore throat

  • severe or frequent vaginal yeast infections

  • chronic pelvic inflammatory disease 

  • severe and frequent infections

  • extreme and unexplained tiredness that may be combined with headaches, lightheadedness, and/or dizziness

  • quick loss of more than 10 pounds of weight that’s not from increased exercise or dieting

  • bruising more easily than normal

  • long periods of frequent diarrhea

  • frequent fevers and/or night sweats

  • swelling or hardening of glands located in your throat, armpit, or groin

  • persistent, deep, dry coughing

  • shortness of breath

  • discolored or purplish growths on the skin or inside the mouth

  • unexplained bleeding from growths on your skin, from your mouth, nose, anus, or vagina, or from any opening in the body

  • frequent or unusual skin rashes

  • severe numbness or pain in your hands or feet, the loss of muscle control and reflex, paralysis, or loss of muscular strength

  • confusion, personality change, or decreased mental abilities

If you’ve had unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex, STD testing — including HIV testing — is essential. Early and consistent treatment of HIV can boost your immune system and help you stay healthy.

What are some symptoms of AIDS in men?

Like many STDs, AIDS symptoms in men are quite similar to the symptoms of AIDS in all genders.

AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). People with HIV may have symptoms in the very beginning of their infection, like swollen glands, fever, headaches, or muscle soreness.

You may not have any symptoms at all for up to 10 years. At that point, HIV begins to make it hard for your body to fight off infections, so you can get infections that normally wouldn’t affect you.

When your immune system reaches a certain point of weakness, that’s when HIV becomes AIDS.

The symptoms of AIDS in men include:

  • thrush — a thick, whitish coating of the tongue or mouth that’s caused by a yeast infection and sometimes accompanied by a sore throat

  • severe and frequent infections

  • extreme and unexplained tiredness that may be combined with headaches, lightheadedness, and/or dizziness

  • quick loss of more than 10 pounds of weight that’s not from increased exercise or dieting

  • bruising more easily than normal

  • long periods of frequent diarrhea

  • frequent fevers and/or night sweats

  • swelling or hardening of glands located in your throat, armpit, or groin

  • persistent, deep, dry coughing

  • shortness of breath

  • discolored or purplish growths on your skin or inside your mouth

  • unexplained bleeding from growths on your skin, from your mouth, nose, anus, or from any opening in your body

  • frequent or unusual skin rashes

  • severe numbness or pain in your hands or feet, loss of muscle control and reflex, paralysis, or loss of muscular strength

  • confusion, personality change, or decreased mental abilities

If you’ve had unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex, STD testing — including HIV testing — is essential. Early and consistent treatment of HIV can boost your immune system and help you stay healthy.

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