Most people have no symptoms or a mild flu-like illness when they are first infected with HIV, and it may be difficult to tell apart from other viral infections. This illness, called ‘seroconversion illness’, often occurs around 10-14 days after infection.
Seroconversion illness can have a range of symptoms including:
- sore muscles and joints
- sore throat
- swollen lymph glands in the neck, underarm or groin areas
These symptoms can all be caused by other illnesses. But if you think you could have contracted HIV, go and get a test. You are particularly at risk if:
- you are a man who has sex with men
- you have sex with people from countries with a high rate of HIV infection
- you inject drugs
- you have had tattoos or other piercings overseas using unsterile equipment
- you have sex with someone else at risk of HIV.
After the initial illness, people with HIV infection usually have no other symptoms, however the virus remains in the body.
People with HIV who take effective treatment are unlikely to develop AIDS and have near normal life expectancy, but if left untreated, most will develop severe immune deficiency within ten years. It is this untreated viral infection that can lead to AIDS, as the body becomes less able to fight infections and protect against cancers developing because the immune system stops working properly.
If you think you might have been exposed to HIV, or have an illness that could be due to HIV, see your doctor to discuss getting tested. Early diagnosis is important and can improve the long-term course of the illness.
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Last reviewed: July 2017