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Symptoms of AIDS

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HIV may not cause symptoms for a number of years. The initial infection may result in flu-like symptoms. During this acute HIV infection, the virus is rapidly reproducing, and the body’s immune system is mounting a defense. The virus can easily be passed to other people during this period.

Initial symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Extreme, unexplained fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes in armpits, neck, or groin
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Night sweats
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Joint pain

After these initial symptoms are gone, there may be no symptoms for months to years, depending on your health status and lifestyle choices. It may be 10 years or longer before a person with HIV develops symptoms. Some infected people have had the virus for even longer periods without developing symptoms. Even though there are no symptoms, the virus is multiplying and damaging the immune system and can be passed on to someone else.

Once the virus sufficiently weakens the immune system, the following symptoms may occur over the course of 1-3 years:

  • Swollen lymph glands all over the body
  • Fatigue
  • Fungal infections of the mouth, fingernails, toes
  • Repeated vaginal yeast infections
  • Development of lots of warts
  • Exacerbations of prior conditions, such as eczema , psoriasis , and herpes infection
  • Shingles
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Memory loss

Once HIV has progressed to AIDS, the immune system has become quite weakened and prone to opportunistic infections—infections that people with a normal immune system don't usually get. These infections occur in people with AIDS because the immune system isn't able to fight them off.

Examples of opportunistic infections and other complications of AIDS include:

Revision Information

  • HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/HIVAIDS/Understanding/Pages/whatAreHIVAIDS.aspx. Accessed May 15, 2013.

  • HIV/AIDS. Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html. Accessed May 15, 2013.

  • A guide to primary care of people with HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://hab.hrsa.gov/deliverhivaidscare/files/primary2004ed.pdf. Accessed May 15, 2013.

  • HIV and AIDS. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/hiv-and-aids.html. Updated December 2010. Accessed May 15, 2013.

  • 5/6/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: Chu C, Selwyn PA. Complications of HIV infection: a systems-based approach. Am Fam Physician. 2011;83(4):395-406.