For many people, the first signs of an HIV infection are dramatic flu-like symptoms within 2 to 4 weeks after infection. Not all HIV patients show the same symptoms of the disease, however, and some never experience any symptoms at all until the infection progresses toward AIDS, according to aids.gov.
HIV has three stages of infection. During the first stage, called acute infection, the virus is replicating and may cause severe flu-like symptoms that a patient can't seem to fight off. The second stage, called clinical latency, typically has no symptoms. With proper treatment, many HIV patients live in this stage for decades. Without treatment, most HIV patients develop AIDS within 10 years.
The final stage of the HIV infection is AIDS. When a person has AIDS, their life expectancy falls to between 1 and 3 years. Patients may delay the onset of AIDS by taking antiretroviral therapy, eating healthy foods, staying in HIV care and generally taking care of oneself. People who contract HIV at an older age, practice poor nutrition, live with severe stress and have other viruses will likely develop AIDS much faster, reports aids.gov.
People in the first stage of an HIV infection may notice symptoms such as a sore throat, headache, fever, swollen glands, fatigue and muscle aches. Symptoms are more severe than those of a typical flu and will last from several days to several weeks. People with these symptoms who feel they may have come into contact with the AIDS virus should get tested as soon as possible.