How Can I Tell if I Have HIV?
You cannot rely on symptoms to tell whether you have HIV. The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. Use AIDS.gov’s HIV Testing and Care Services Locator to find a testing site near you:
The symptoms of HIV vary, depending on the individual and what stage of the disease you are in: the early stage, the clinical latency stage, or AIDS (the late stage of HIV infection). Below are the symptoms that some individuals may experience in these three stages. Not all individuals will experience these symptoms.
Early Stage of HIV
Within 2-4 weeks after HIV infection, many, but not all, people experience flu-like symptoms, often described as the “worst flu ever.” This is called acute retroviral syndrome (ARS) and it’s the body’s natural response to the HIV infection.
Symptoms can include:
- Fever (this is the most common symptom)
- Swollen glands
- Sore throat
- Muscle and joint aches and pains
These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
You should not assume you have HIV just because you have any of these symptoms. Each of these symptoms can be caused by other illnesses. And some people who have HIV do not show any symptoms at all for 10 years or more.
If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, get an HIV test. Most HIV tests detect antibodies (proteins your body makes against HIV), not HIV itself. But it takes a few weeks for your body to produce these antibodies, so if you test too early, you might not get an accurate test result. A new HIV test is available that can detect HIV directly during this early stage of infection. So be sure to let your testing site know if you think you may have been recently infected with HIV.
You are at high risk of transmitting HIV to others during this early stage, even if you have no symptoms. For this reason, it is very important to take steps to reduce your risk of transmission.
Clinical LATENCY stage
After the early stage of HIV infection, the disease moves into a stage called the clinical latency stage. During this stage, people with HIV typically have no symptoms, or only mild ones.
During the clinical latency stage, HIV reproduces at very low levels, although it is still active. If you take antiretroviral therapy (ART), you can stay healthy and live in this stage for several decades because treatment helps keep the virus in check. (Read more about HIV treatment.) If you are not on ART, this clinical latency stage usually lasts about 10 years, but may be shorter.
You are still able to transmit HIV to others during this stage, even if you have no symptoms.
Progression to AIDS
If you have HIV and you are not on ART, eventually the virus will weaken your body’s immune system and you will progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), the late stage of HIV infection.
Symptoms can include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Recurring fever or profuse night sweats
- Extreme and unexplained tiredness
- Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
- Sores of the mouth, anus, or genitals
- Red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
- Memory loss, depression, and other neurologic disorders.
Each of these symptoms can also be related to other illnesses. So the only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested.
Many of the severe symptoms and illnesses of HIV disease come from the opportunistic infections that occur because your body’s immune system has been damaged. (Read more about opportunistic infections.)
Related Topics on AIDS.gov
Last revised: 08/27/2015