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Early Signs of HIV

Symptoms and timing

When it comes to HIV infection, it’s important to know what early symptoms to look for. Early detection of the infection can help ensure that you receive prompt treatment to control the virus and to possibly slow the progression into AIDS.

Symptoms associated with the flu may be the first to arise as early signs of HIV. Early signs of HIV include:

Early HIV symptoms generally arise within 1 to 2 months of infection, although they can arrive as early as two weeks after exposure, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, some people experience no early symptoms after they have been infected with HIV. That’s why it’s so important to get tested.

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Getting tested

Getting tested

Though it can be nerve-wracking to get tested for HIV, it’s important. Even without symptoms, an infected person is still contagious and can easily infect others through an exchange of bodily fluids.

Taking an HIV test is the only way to determine whether you have the disease. So be smart, stay safe, and protect others. Talk to your doctor about getting tested if you are sexually active, have ever shared needles, or have other reason to think that you may have been infected with HIV.

Learn more: HIV/AIDS tests »

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HIV stages

Stages of HIV

Depending on the phase of the infection, symptoms of HIV can vary.

The first stage of HIV is known as acute or primary HIV infection. It’s also called acute retroviral syndrome. During this stage, most people experience common flu-like symptoms that may be hard to distinguish from a gastrointestinal or respiratory infection.

The next phase is the clinical latency stage. The virus becomes less active, though it’s still in your body. You experience no symptoms while the virus develops. This period of latency can last a decade or longer. Many people show no symptoms of HIV infection during this entire 10-year period.

The final phase of HIV is AIDS. During this final phase, your immune system is severely damaged and you're vulnerable to opportunistic infections. Once HIV becomes AIDS, symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and fever may become apparent.

Learn more: The effects of HIV on the body »

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Am I contagious?

Am I contagious?

Though you may only have had the virus for a short while, you are still contagious when you have primary HIV infection. During this phase, your bloodstream contains higher levels of HIV, which makes it easy to transmit it to others.

Since not everyone has early symptoms of HIV, it’s crucial to get tested if you think you may have been exposed to the virus.

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Other considerations

Other considerations

When it comes to HIV symptoms, remember that it’s not always HIV itself that makes you feel sick. Many HIV symptoms, particularly the most severe ones, arise from what are called opportunistic infections.

The microorganisms responsible for these infections are generally kept at bay in people who have an intact immune system. However, when the immune system is impaired, these germs can attack your body and cause illness. Also, people who show no symptoms during early HIV infection may become symptomatic and begin to feel sick once the infection progresses toward AIDS.

Learn more: HIV symptoms in men »

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