As early as 2-4 weeks after exposure to HIV (but up to 3 months later), people can experience an acute illness, often described as “the worst flu ever.” This is called acute retroviral syndrome (ARS), or primary HIV infection, and it’s the body’s natural response to HIV infection. During primary HIV infection, there are higher levels of virus circulating in the blood, which means that people can more easily transmit the virus to others.
Symptoms can include:
- Night sweats
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Ulcers in the mouth
It is important to remember, however, that not everyone gets ARS when they become infected with HIV. For more information, see NIH’s Acute HIV Infection.
Chronic Phase or Latency: Signs and Symptoms
After the initial infection and seroconversion, the virus becomes less active in the body, although it is still present. During this period, many people do not have any symptoms of HIV infection. This period is called the “chronic” or “latency” phase. This period can last up to 10 years—sometimes longer.
AIDS: Signs and Symptoms
When HIV infection progresses to AIDS, many people begin to suffer from fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, night sweats, and even wasting syndrome at late stages. Many of the signs and symptoms of AIDS come from opportunistic infections which occur in patients with a damaged immune system.