Symptoms of HIV include fever, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes and rash, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, symptoms alone should not be used to determine HIV status, since some people do not have any symptoms for 10 years or longer after contracting the virus.
Many people experience flu-like symptoms around two to four weeks following exposure to HIV; the symptoms can last a few days or weeks, advises the CDC. These symptoms are known as acute retroviral syndrome or primary HIV infection, and they occur as part of the body’s response to the infection. Although it may be too early for HIV to show up on an HIV test, those who have contracted the virus can still transmit it to others during this time. In fact, this is the most transmissible period for HIV. Some people remain asymptomatic following infection.
Normally, the virus lays dormant and inactive during what is known as HIV’s clinical latency period, reports the CDC. The virus is still active but does not reproduce at high levels. Symptoms may not even be noticed during latency. Clinical latency can continue for decades if those infected opt for antiretroviral therapy. However, once the immune system has reached a certain threshold of damage, AIDS symptoms begin to occur, and the body becomes more vulnerable to infections and cancers.