What Are the Symptoms of HIV?

Some people develop HIV symptoms shortly after being infected. But it usually takes more than 10 years. There are several stages of HIV disease. The first HIV symptoms may include swollen glands in the throat, armpit, or groin. Other early HIV symptoms include slight fever, headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches. These symptoms may last for only a few weeks. Then there are usually no HIV symptoms for many years. That is why it can be hard to know if you have HIV.

AIDS symptoms appear in the most advanced stage of HIV disease. In addition to a badly damaged immune system, a person with AIDS may also have

  • thrush — a thick, whitish coating of the tongue or mouth that is caused by a yeast infection and sometimes accompanied by a sore throat
  • severe or recurring vaginal yeast infections
  • chronic pelvic inflammatory disease
  • severe and frequent infections periods of extreme and unexplained tiredness that may be combined with headaches, lightheadedness, and/or dizziness
  • quick loss of more than 10 pounds of weight that is not due to increased physical exercise or dieting
  • bruising more easily than normal
  • long periods of frequent diarrhea
  • frequent fevers and/or night sweats
  • swelling or hardening of glands located in the throat, armpit, or groin
  • periods of persistent, deep, dry coughing
  • increasing shortness of breath
  • the appearance of discolored or purplish growths on the skin or inside the mouth
  • unexplained bleeding from growths on the skin, from the mouth, nose, anus, or vagina, or from any opening in the body
  • frequent or unusual skin rashes
  • severe numbness or pain in the hands or feet, the loss of muscle control and reflex, paralysis, or loss of muscular strength
  • confusion, personality change, or decreased mental abilities

  • HOW IS HIV SPREAD?

    You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities. Most commonly, people get or transmit HIV through sexual behaviors and needle or syringe use.
    HIV is not spread easily. Only certain body fluids from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV:



  • Blood
  • Semen (cum)
  • Pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
  • Rectal fluids
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Breast milk

  • WAYS HIV IS TRANSMITTED

  • Having anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom or taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV.
  • Sharing needles or syringes, rinse water, or other equipment (“works”) used to prepare injection drugs with someone who has HIV. HIV can live in a used needle up to 42 days depending on temperature and other factors.

  • Less commonly, HIV may be spread:
  • From mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. Although the risk can be high if a mother is living with HIV and not taking medicine, recommendations to test all pregnant women for HIV and start HIV treatment immediately have lowered the number of babies who are born with HIV.
  • By being stuck with an HIV-contaminated needle or other sharp object. This is a risk mainly for health care workers.


  • HIV does not survive long outside the human body (such as on surfaces) and it cannot reproduce outside a human host. It is not spread by:
    - Air or water
    - Mosquitoes, ticks or other insects
    - Saliva, tears, or sweat that is not mixed with the blood of an HIV-positive person
    - Shaking hands, hugging, sharing toilets, sharing dishes/drinking glasses, or closed-mouth or “social” kissing with someone who is HIV-positive Drinking fountains
    - Other sexual activities that don’t involve the exchange of body fluids (for example, touching).

    How can I reduce my risk of getting HIV?

  • Get tested and know your partner’s HIV status. Talk to your partner about HIV testing and get tested before you have sex.
  • Have less risky sex. Oral sex is much less risky than anal or vaginal sex. Anal sex is the most risky type of sex for HIV transmission.
  • Use condoms. Use a condom correctly every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Read this fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to use condoms correctly.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to have a partner with HIV whose HIV is not well controlled or to have a partner with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Both of these factors can increase the risk of HIV transmission. If you have more than one sexual partner, get tested for HIV regularly.
  • Get tested and treated for STDs. Insist that your partners get tested and treated too. Having an STD can increase your risk of becoming infected with HIV or spreading it to others.
  • Talk to your health care provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is an HIV prevention option for people who don’t have HIV but who are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV. PrEP involves taking a specific HIV medicine every day. PrEP should always be combined with other prevention options, such as condoms.
  • Don’t inject drugs. But if you do, use only sterile drug injection equipment and water and never share your equipment with others.



  • SUPPORTING SOMEONE LIVING WITH HIV HOW CAN I HELP SOMEONE NEWLY DIAGNOSED WITH HIV?
  • Listen. Being diagnosed HIV is life-changing news. Listen to your loved one and offer your support. Reassure them that HIV is a manageable health condition. There are medicines that can treat HIV and help them stay healthy.
  • Learn. Educate yourself about HIV: what it is, how it is transmitted, how it is treated, and how people can stay healthy while living with HIV. Having a solid understanding of HIV is a big step forward in supporting your loved one. This website is a good place to begin to familiarize yourself with HIV. Have these resources available for your newly diagnosed friend if they want them. Knowledge is empowering, but keep in mind that your friend may not want the information right away.
  • Encourage treatment.Some people who are recently diagnosed may find it hard to take that first step to HIV treatment. Your support and assistance may be helpful. By getting linked to HIV medical care early, starting treatment with HIV medication (called antiretroviral therapy or ART), adhering to medication, and staying in care, people with HIV can keep the virus under control, and prevent their HIV infection from progressing to AIDS. Encourage your friend or loved one to get into treatment as soon as possible and help them find an HIV care provider. Use the HIV Testing and Care Services Locator to find a provider.
  • Support medication adherence. It is important for people living with HIV to take their HIV medication every day, exactly as prescribed. Ask your loved one what you can do to support them in establishing a medication routine and sticking to it. Also ask what other needs they might have and how you can help them stay healthy. Learn more about treatment adherence.
  • Get support. Take care of yourself and get support if you need it. Turn to others for any questions, concerns, or anxieties you may have so that the person who is diagnosed can focus on taking care of their own health.

  • HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

    It is incredibly rare for HIV to be transmitted in a household setting. In a very few cases, HIV has been transmitted when there was unprotected contact between infected blood and broken skin or mucous membranes.

    To prevent even such rare occurrences, you should take the following precautions when caring for someone living with HIV:

  • Wear gloves if you are going to have contact with blood or other body fluids that could possibly contain visible blood, such as urine, feces, or vomit.
  • Cover cuts, sores, or breaks in the skin with bandages. This applies to both you and the person living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Wash your hands and other parts of your body immediately after contact with blood or other body fluids. Disinfect surfaces soiled with blood.
  • Avoid practices that increase the likelihood of blood contact, such as sharing of razors and toothbrushes.
  • Use needles and other sharp instruments only when medically necessary and handle them according to recommendations for healthcare settings. (Do not put caps back on needles by hand or remove needles from syringes. Dispose of needles in puncture-proof containers out of the reach of children and visitors.)