What Are the First Symptoms of HIV, and When Do They Appear?

The first symptoms of HIV can occur within two to four weeks after the initial exposure, according to AIDS.gov. HIV symptoms include fever, swollen glands, sore throat, rash, fatigue, headache, joint pain and muscle aches. Most infected individuals say it is the worst flu they've ever experienced.

HIV does not necessarily present flu-like symptoms in every individual, states AIDS.gov. Some individuals do not present HIV symptoms for up to 10 years. The initial symptoms of HIV are categorized as acute retroviral syndrome, which can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Individuals who believe they have been exposed to HIV should not wait for symptoms to present and should be tested immediately.

Annual testing is a smart choice for anybody engaging in sexual activity, as HIV can enter the clinical latency stage, which may not have any symptoms, suggests AIDS.gov. Patients who do not get tested or take anti-retroviral therapy show symptoms in the later stages of HIV when it progresses into AIDS. Anti-retroviral medication can keep the virus in check for several decades if caught in the earlier stages of the disease. On the other hand, HIV can progress into AIDS with symptoms such as rapid weight loss, extreme tiredness, night sweats, recurring fever, pneumonia, diarrhea, memory loss, depression and swollen lymph nodes.