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Symptoms of AIDS
HIV may not cause symptoms for a number of years. The initial infection may result in flu-like symptoms. During this acute HIV infection, the virus is rapidly reproducing, and the body’s immune system is mounting a defense. The virus can easily be passed to other people during this period.
Initial symptoms may include:
- Extreme, unexplained fatigue
- Swollen lymph nodes in armpits, neck, or groin
- Dry cough
- Night sweats
- Sore throat
- Joint pain
After these initial symptoms are gone, there may be no symptoms for months to years, depending on your health status and lifestyle choices. It may be 10 years or longer before a person with HIV develops symptoms. Some infected people have had the virus for even longer periods without developing symptoms. Even though there are no symptoms, the virus is multiplying and damaging the immune system and can be passed on to someone else.
Once the virus sufficiently weakens the immune system, the following symptoms may occur over the course of 1-3 years:
- Swollen lymph glands all over the body
- Fungal infections of the mouth, fingernails, toes
- Repeated vaginal yeast infections
- Development of lots of warts
- Exacerbations of prior conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, and herpes infection
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Chronic diarrhea
- Memory loss
Once HIV has progressed to AIDS, the immune system has become quite weakened and prone to opportunistic infections—infections that people with a normal immune system don't usually get. These infections occur in people with AIDS because the immune system isn't able to fight them off.
Examples of opportunistic infections and other complications of AIDS include:
- Thrush (an overgrowth of yeast in the mouth)
- Pneumocystis pneumonia
- Invasive fungal infections
- Toxoplasmosis infection
- Kaposi sarcoma
- Cervical cancer
- Uncommon intestinal infections
- Severe weight loss (wasting syndrome)
- Severe skin rashes
- Psychiatric problems, including depression and dementia
- Kidney damage
- Heart disease
A guide to primary care of people with HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://hab.hrsa.gov/deliverhivaidscare/files/primary2004ed.pdf. Accessed August 10, 2016.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.
HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/HIVAIDS/Understanding/Pages/whatAreHIVAIDS.aspx. Accessed August 10, 2016.
HIV basics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html. Updated July 6, 2016. Accessed August 10, 2016.
HIV infection. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114424/HIV-infection. Updated September 19, 2016. Accessed September 30, 2016.
5/6/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114424/HIV-infection: Chu C, Selwyn PA. Complications of HIV infection: a systems-based approach. Am Fam Physician. 2011;83(4):395-406.
- Reviewer: David L. Horn, MD
- Review Date: 08/2016
- Update Date: 08/10/2016