How to Recognize HIV or AIDS Symptoms

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV attacks the immune system, destroying a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight off infection and disease. Testing is the only sure way to determine if you have HIV. There are symptoms to look for that could be a warning that you have an infection.

Method 1: Spotting Early Symptoms

Determine if you are experiencing acute fatigue with no explainable cause.

Fatigue can be the sign of many different illnesses, but it’s a symptom many people with HIV experience. This symptom shouldn’t cause great alarm if it’s the only one you’re feeling, but it’s something to look into further.

  • Acute fatigue isn’t the same as simply feeling sleepy. Do you feel tired all the time, even after a good night’s sleep? Do you find yourself taking more afternoon naps than usual, and avoiding strenuous activities because you feel low energy? This type of fatigue is cause for concern.
  • If this symptom persists over a few weeks or months’ time, be sure to get tested to rule out HIV.

Be on the lookout for a fever or excessive night sweats.

These symptoms commonly occur during the early stages of an HIV infection, during what is called the primary or acute HIV infection stage. Again, many people don’t have these symptoms, but those who do usually experience them 2 to 4 weeks after contracting HIV.

  • Fever and night sweats are also symptoms of the flu and the common cold. If it’s flu or cold season, that might be what you’re experiencing.
  • Chills, muscle aches, sore throat, and headache, which are also symptoms of the flu and cold, can also be signs of an early HIV infection.

Check for swollen glands in the neck, armpits, or groin.

The lymph nodes swell in reaction to bodily infections. This doesn’t happen to everyone who has primary HIV, but among those who have symptoms, it’s a common one.

  • The lymph nodes in the nick tend to swell more than those in the armpits or groin with an HIV infection.
  • Lymph nodes can swell as a result of many other types of infections, such as the cold or a flu, so further investigation is necessary to determine the cause.


Note instances of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms, which are commonly associated with the flu, can also indicate an early HIV infection. Get tested if these symptoms persist.

Pay attention to mouth and genital ulcers. If you see a mouth ulcer appear along with the other symptoms noted, especially if you don’t commonly get mouth ulcers, it may be a sign of primary HIV infection. Genital ulcers are also an indication that HIV may be present.

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