Most people experience flu-like symptoms following infection with HIV. This initial phase is known as “primary infection”. There are several reasons why this must be taken seriously: on the one hand, newly infected people are much more contagious during this initial stage, and on the other hand, administering treatment right away may, in some cases, help to reduce the damage HIV causes and can also help the immune system to control the infection better over the long term.
This is why anybody exhibiting flu-like symptoms in the first few weeks after having unprotected sex with somebody whose HIV status is unknown should not only go for an HIV test, but should also avoid having unprotected sex again until they get their results.
Common symptoms during the primary infection stage of HIV
May occur individually or in any combination
- Tiredness, fatigue
- Night sweats
- Severe swelling of the lymph nodes, not limited to the neck area
- A sore throat
- Skin rash
In rare cases
- Muscle and joint pain
- Diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting
- Damage to the mucous membrane in the mouth and genitals
These symptoms may or may not indicate an HIV infection. They also vary in severity from person to person and can last for a few days or even several weeks before they disappear. Some people do not show any symptoms at all.
Untreated, the HIV infection passes through three stages starting from the transmission of the HIV infection until the onset of AIDS.
More on this What is AIDS?