The first sign of an HIV infection is often a flu-like illness that produces symptoms such as muscle aches, fever, diarrhea, headaches, sore throat and chills, explains Mayo Clinic. As the infection progresses to AIDS, symptoms such as shaking chills, night sweats, chronic fever and a cough may occur.
The flu-like illness that occurs early on after contracting HIV is called a primary or acute HIV infection, notes Mayo Clinic. This stage of the illness can last for a few weeks and can also produce symptoms such as mouth or genital ulcers, fatigue, joint pain and swollen lymph glands. The symptoms may be mild, and the infected individual may not take notice of them as a result. Nonetheless, the infection spreads especially rapidly during this early stage because there is a very high concentration of the virus in the person's bloodstream.
Following the primary or acute infection, HIV enters into a stage called clinical latency in which the virus is producing at a very slow rate, explains AIDS.gov. Patients may have no symptoms during this stage and can remain in clinical latency for decades if they receive treatment. Individuals who do not undergo proper treatment stay in clinical latency for approximately 10 years before progressing to AIDS.
Once patients enter into the AIDS stage, their immune systems are highly compromised, explains Mayo Clinic. This leaves them highly vulnerable to infections that are not as likely to affect healthy people. These infections can produce a myriad of symptoms, some of which may include long-term fevers above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, blurred vision, weight loss, shortness of breath and skin rashes.