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HIV
Signs and Symptoms

Many people don't have any symptoms when they first become infected with HIV. Some have a flu-like illness, called HIV sero-conversion syndrome, a month or two after exposure to the virus. This illness may cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Enlarged liver or spleen
  • Fever
  • Enlarged or swollen lymph nodes
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neurologic symptoms
  • Rash on the abdomen, arms and legs and face
  • Sore throat
  • Thrush, a common fungal infection of the mouth caused by Candida, a yeast-like fungus

These symptoms usually disappear in a week to a month and may be mistaken for other viral infections. During this period, people are very infectious and HIV is present in large quantities in genital fluids.

An infected person may not experience severe symptoms for eight to 10 years or more. This period — called the asymptomatic period — varies in length for each person. Some people may have symptoms within a few months and others may be symptom-free for years.

Children born with HIV usually have symptoms within two years of birth. Children may grow slowly or become sick frequently.

As the immune system weakens, other complications may occur. For many people, the first signs of infection are large lymph nodes or swollen glands that may be enlarged for more than three months. Other symptoms before the onset of AIDS include:

  • Fevers and sweats
  • Herpes infections that cause severe mouth, genital or anal sores
  • Lack of energy
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease in women that does not respond to treatment
  • Persistent skin rashes or flaky skin
  • Shingles, a painful nerve disease often accompanied by a rash or blisters
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Weight loss

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.