Sign in to your account

Don't have an account?

Create an account
This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more
Black medical doctor in a white coat and red stethoscope examining a patient on a ward. Our doctors on askawayhealth have years of clinical experience to provide top notch care.

Need to check your symptoms?

Use our symptom checker to help determine what your symptoms are and to ensure you get the help you need.

Check your symptoms


Request a reset

Don't have an account?

Create an account


Reset your password

Don't have an account?

Create an account


10 Early Signs and Symptoms of HIV Infection

December 1, 2020

If you’re worried about HIV infection, it’s important to be aware of the early signs and symptoms. By recognizing these signs, you can take prompt action and seek appropriate medical care. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the 10 early HIV-positive signs and symptoms to help you better understand and identify the condition.

Black woman in a light pink top with a hand on her forehead from a headache, one of the HIV Positive signs

Fever and Fatigue

One of the early signs of HIV infection is experiencing a fever and fatigue. You may mistake this for the flu or a common cold, but it is important to pay attention to these symptoms, especially if they persist for an extended period of time. HIV can weaken the immune system, leading to persistent fatigue and a low-grade fever.

If you are experiencing these symptoms and have concerns about HIV infection, it is important to get tested and seek medical advice.

Early detection and treatment can greatly improve outcomes for individuals living with HIV.

Sore Throat and Headache

Another early HIV-positive sign is a sore throat and headache.

These symptoms can occur as the body’s immune system responds to the virus.

The sore throat may be accompanied by swollen lymph nodes in the neck. Headaches can range from mild to severe and may be persistent.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to get an HIV test and consult with a healthcare professional.

Early diagnosis and treatment can help manage the virus and prevent further complications.

Rash and Skin Problems

Rash and skin problems are common symptoms of HIV infection. The rash may appear as small, red bumps or as larger, flat patches on the skin.

It can be itchy and may spread to different parts of the body. In some cases, the rash may be accompanied by other skin problems such as dryness, flakiness, or sores.

It is important to note that these skin problems can also be due to other factors, so HIV testing is crucial to determine the underlying cause.

Any unusual changes in your skin should prompt you to seek medical advice.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen lymph nodes are another common early sign of HIV infection.

Lymph nodes are part of the body’s immune system and can become enlarged when the body is fighting off an infection.

In the case of HIV, the virus attacks and weakens the immune system, causing the lymph nodes to swell.

Swollen lymph nodes are often painless.

You may feel them in areas such as the neck, armpits, and groin. If you notice any persistent swelling or enlargement of your lymph nodes, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and testing.

Muscle and Joint Pain

Muscle and joint pain can be early HIV-positive signs.

This pain can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by stiffness, tenderness, or swelling in the affected area. It is important to note that muscle and joint pain can have many causes, so experiencing these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have HIV.

However, if you are at risk for HIV or have engaged in high-risk behaviours, you should get a test and speak with a healthcare professional if you experience persistent or worsening muscle and joint pain.

Early detection and treatment are crucial for managing HIV infection.

How HIV Causes Infection

The full meaning of HIV is ‘Human Immunodeficiency Virus’.

When the virus (HIV) enters the human body, it multiplies in the white blood cells (WBC).

The WBC usually helps the human body fight infections.

They are important to your immune system.

By infecting and multiplying in your WBCs, HIV infection attacks the cells that are supposed to protect you.

As a result, your immune system gets weaker and weaker (over a period of time).

However, how long it takes to significantly weaken and destroy the immune system depends on your health status.

AIDS (which means Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is the result of HIV infection progressing to a point where the body’s immune system becomes weakened and destroyed.

Now, this can happen slowly in many people, taking on an average of 10 years to advance into AIDS if the HIV infection is not treated.

HIV Positive Signs and Consequences

At this point, the body is unable to fight off infections and diseases, which can be life-threatening. This can happen in either of two situations:

  1. The person is not aware of his/her HIV status (but is infected with HIV) and, therefore, not receiving appropriate treatment.
  2. The person is aware of his/her HIV status but not receiving appropriate treatment for some reason.

So, the first step is to be aware of your HIV status by taking the HIV test and getting the right counselling.

This is the case whether you develop HIV-positive signs or are concerned for other reasons.

Secondly, you need to start receiving appropriate treatment immediately if you test positive for HIV.

Early treatment of HIV infection would stop the infection from progressing to AIDS.

While every one of us has a fear of the unknown and the stigma (discrimination) against people living with HIV, this should not discourage you from knowing your HIV status.

This is because a positive HIV test does not mean that you have AIDS. It means that you have an HIV infection.

People with HIV infection can enjoy a long and healthy life if they receive appropriate treatment.

We call the medications we currently use in treating HIV infection Antiretroviral drugs, and – they are very effective.

If you are HIV positive, antiretroviral therapy helps to keep you in stable health and reduces the amount of the virus (viral load) in the body.

Over time, the virus numbers become “undetectable” in your blood as long as you are receiving the appropriate treatment.

Another, therefore, benefit is that lower viral loads reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

And it means that somebody who is HIV positive (and receiving appropriate treatment) cannot transmit or infect their partner or contact.

Studies such as the PARTNER study  published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on the 12th of July, 2016, have proven this fact:

Undetectable equals Untransmittable.

HIV Status and AIDS

To summarise, these are the 8-points we need to know about HIV and AIDS:

  1. HIV infection is not a death sentence.
  2. It is important to know hiv positive signs and do regular testing to be aware of your HIV status
  3. If your test is positive for HIV, start receiving treatment immediately to protect your immune system from becoming weakened and destroyed so that you do not develop AIDS.
  4. Nowadays, fewer people develop AIDS because of the advancement in HIV treatment.
  5. You can find HIV in blood, breast milk, and vaginal and anal fluids. (HIV cannot pass from one person to another from sweat, saliva or urine).
  6. It is important to practice safe sex or abstinence to prevent HIV infection.
  7. It is also important to ensure standard precautions when providing healthcare services.
  8. Let us stop the stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.

Are you still unsure about checking your HIV status today? Talk to us here.

More Reading

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on a wide range of healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality healthcare. 

The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly

Share this blog article

On this page

Let us know what you think

Want to know how your comment data is processed? Learn more

Access over 600 resources & our monthly newsletter.

Askawayhealth 2023 grant recipient from European Union Development Fund

Askawayhealth, 2023 Award Recipient

Our educational content meets the standards set by the NHS in their Standard for Creating Health Content guidance.

Askawayhealth aims to deliver reliable and evidence based women's health, family health and sexual health information in a way that is easily relatable and easy for everyone to access.

Askawayhealth symptom Checker tool image

Utilize our complimentary symptom checker tool to gain more information about any uncertain symptoms you might have.