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Symptoms of AIDS

HIV may not cause symptoms for many years. The first ones often feel like you have the flu. The virus is rapidly reproducing during this time. The body’s immune system is mounting a defense. During this phase, you can still pass HIV to others.

First symptoms that appear:

  • Fever
  • Excess tiredness
  • Swollen glands in armpits, neck, or groin
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Night sweats
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Joint pain

After these go away, you may not notice anything for months or many years. Despite this, the virus is growing and causing damage to your immune system. During this time, you can pass HIV to others.

Over the next 1 to 3 years, you may notice:

Untreated, HIV progresses to AIDS. The immune system is weak. This opens the door to opportunistic infections. These happen in people who don't have a healthy immune system. People with AIDS get them because their body can't fight them off.

Common opportunistic infections are:


2015 Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/default.htm. Updated January 25, 2017. Accessed September 17, 2018.

Acute HIV infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T902526/Acute-HIV-infection. Updated October 26, 2016. Accessed September 17, 2018.

AIDS and opportunistic infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/livingwithhiv/opportunisticinfections.html. Updated July 12, 2018. Accessed September 17, 2018.

Guide for HIV/AIDS clinical care. National Institute of Health and Human Services website. Available at: https://hab.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/hab/clinical-quality-management/2014guide.pdf. Updated April 2014. Accessed September 17, 2018.

Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 10/23/2020