Symptoms of AIDS

HIV may not cause symptoms for many years. The first ones often feel like the flu. The virus is quickly reproducing during this time. The body’s immune system is mounting a defense. During this phase, a person can still pass HIV to others.

The first symptoms that appear are:

  • Fever, night sweats
  • Excess tiredness
  • Swollen glands in armpits, neck, or groin
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Joint pain

After these go away, a person may not notice anything for months or many years. Despite this, the virus is growing and damaging the immune system. During this time, a person can pass HIV to others.

Over the next 1 to 3 years, symptoms may include:

Untreated HIV progresses to AIDS. The immune system is weak. This can lead to opportunistic infections. These infections happen in people who have a weak immune system. People with AIDS get them because their body cannot fight them off.

Common opportunistic infections are:

A weak immune system from AIDs can also lead to:

  • Mental health problems such as depression and dementia
  • Extreme weight loss and muscle wasting
  • Problems that damage the kidneys or heart


Acute HIV infection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed November 10, 2021.
AIDS and opportunistic infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Accessed November 10, 2021.
HIV/AIDS clinical guidelines. Clinical website. Available at: Accessed November 10, 2021.
Sexually transmitted infections treatment guidelines 2021. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Accessed November 10, 2021.
Last reviewed November 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 11/10/2021

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