Most people infected with HIV experience a short, flu-like illness that occurs 2-6 weeks after infection. After this, HIV may not cause any symptoms for several years.
It's estimated up to 80% of people who are infected with HIV experience this flu-like illness.
The most common symptoms are:
- raised temperature (fever)
- sore throat
- body rash
Other symptoms can include:
- joint pain
- muscle pain
- swollen glands
The symptoms usually last 1-2 weeks, but can be longer. They're a sign that your immune system is putting up a fight against the virus.
But having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have the HIV virus. Remember: they're commonly caused by conditions other than HIV.
If you have several of these symptoms and think you've been at risk of HIV infection within the past few weeks, you should get an HIV test.
After the initial symptoms disappear, HIV may not cause any further symptoms for many years.
During this time, the virus continues to be active and causes progressive damage to your immune system.
This process can vary from person to person, but may take up to 10 years, during which you'll feel and appear well.
Once the immune system becomes severely damaged, symptoms can include:
- weight loss
- chronic diarrhoea
- night sweats
- skin problems
- recurrent infections
- serious life-threatening illnesses
Earlier diagnosis and treatment of HIV can prevent these problems.
You should still take an HIV test if you may have been at risk at any time in the past, even if you do not experience any symptoms.