At the onset of HIV infection, at least 90% of people infected with HIV will start experiencing symptoms that will tell them something is wrong with their body. If you know you are at risk of possibly having any sexually transmitted disease, this is the right time to get checked.

40% to 90% of people who contract HIV, experience flu-like symptoms known as acute retroviral syndrome (ARS) a month or two after HIV entered the body. However, in many cases, HIV infection does not cause any symptoms, and the disease can be asymptomatic for years, sometimes even a decade, after infection.

According to Kaiser Permanente's Director of HIV/AIDS, Michael Horberg, MD, of Oakland, California, “One in five people in the United States with HIV doesn't know they have it, which is why it's so important to get tested, especially if you have unprotected sex with more than one partner or use intravenous drugs.”

But, if you’re really nervous about the symptoms you are experiencing, here are 13 of the most common symptoms of HIV infection.


Mild fever of up and about 102 degrees (38.9 degrees Celsius) is one of the first signs of acute retroviral syndrome. Usually, this mild fever if it appears at all, also often comes with other typical mild symptoms, such as swollen lymph glands, a sore throat, and extreme fatigue.


You feel extremely fatigued, because the virus has started to move into the bloodstream, and is currently reproducing in large numbers, triggering an inflammatory reaction by the immune system. The inflammatory response that is generated, stresses your immune system, causing you to feel tired and lethargic. Fatigue can be both an early and late sign of HIV. Often, fatigue is a symptom of both acute and newly contracted HIV infection.

Painful muscles and joints

Achy muscles, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes are often symptoms that are also associated with acute retroviral syndrome. Acute retroviral syndrome often is mistaken for mononucleosis, the flu, or other viral infection, even hepatitis or syphilis. This similarity of symptoms is common in most STDs. Lymph nodes are part of the body's immune system, and inflammation is a normal reaction of the lymph nodes to an infection. Lymph nodes are found in the neck, armpit, and groin.

Sore throat and headache

Indistinguishable from other symptoms, sore throat and headache can only be recognized as acute retroviral syndrome when you've recently engaged in high-risk behavior. It it important to get tested rapidly if you think you have contracted HIV. In its earliest stage, HIV is most contagious.

At this stage, the body has not yet produced antibodies to HIV, so an antibody test may not yet pick the HIV infection up. (It takes up to 3 months for HIV antibodies to give an impression in a blood test).

Skin rash

Even at the earliest stage, skin rashes already appear. This is a common HIV AIDS symptoms that also manifest in the late stage course.

These rashes typically look like boils, on itchy pink areas, that can be found in different parts of the trunk. They usually are not easy to treat and quite a bit mysterious in nature. Now, that should prompt you to get an HIV test.

Diarrhea and nausea that cause vomiting

From studies, anywhere from 30% to 60% of HIV positive people go through short-term bouts of nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea in the early stages. When these symptoms again re-appear in the later stage of the infection, usually this is a result of an antiretroviral therapy and of an opportunistic infection.

Usually, diarrhea is unrelenting and unresponsive to regular therapy. Or the symptoms may be caused by an organism, not usually present in people with healthy immune systems.

Weight loss

The weight loss associated with HIV AIDS symptoms is called "AIDS wasting". Frequently linked to severe diarrhea. When people loose a lot of weight unintentionally (not making any dietary restrictions and heavy exercises to lose weight). This typically means the immune system is already fairly depleted. Especially, when losing a lot of weight even if you continue to eat as much as possible. A typical late-stage symptom manifestation, which is fairly common for HIV. Lately, thanks to antiretroviral therapy, this symptom is becoming less commonplace.


A dry cough can be caused by allergies but also by the HIV virus.


A dry cough and weight loss can end up as pneumonia and you might start taking medication for pneumonia. According to research by C. Feldman from the Department of Medicine, Johannesburg Hospital, South Africa, pneumonia is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in HIV-infected patients.

Night sweats

At the onset of HIV infection, night sweats are very common among HIV patients. If you are having (consistent) night sweats when you are sleeping in a room with a comfortable temperature, get tested for HIV.

Your nails change color

Very often nails change color. They can go black and look like they are dying.

Yeast infection

Another common symptom of HIV is a yeast infection which shows up in the mouth. Candida fungus causes the infection. It is not painful but bothersome especially once you start feeling those patches in your mouth.

Confused and cannot concentrate

In early stages HIV can cause issues concentrating and remembering things. Late stage HIV can cause dementia.