Early Stages of HIV Symptoms

HIV infection is a disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus. The HIV virus leads to damage of your immune system, making you more prone to infection. It is contracted by sexual contact, blood and body fluids, the sharing of intravenous needles, and during childbirth from mother to child transmission. According to Mayo Clinic, HIV interferes with your body’s ability to fight off viruses, bacteria and fungi that cause disease, making you more susceptible to certain types of cancers and infections. You may experience symptoms of HIV infection while the disease is in its early stages.

Headache and Fever

You may experience headache and fever in the early stages of HIV infection. Headache and fever can be relieved with ibuprofen or acetaminophen. These symptoms can occur two to four weeks following infection with HIV, but can be mistaken as being part of a cold or flu. If you think you may have been exposed to HIV and are experiencing a headache and fever, contact your physician. He or she will monitor your blood work for a period of about three months to determine if you have been infected. It usually takes about three months for the HIV ELISA blood test to change from HIV negative to HIV positive, states Medline.

Sore Throat and Swollen Lymph Glands

A sore throat or swollen lymph glands can be a sign of early HIV infection. Swollen glands usually appear in the neck or clavicular region. A sore throat or swollen lymph glands may occur two to three weeks following infection, however swollen lymph glands may be a symptom of any type of systemic infection.


A rash may be a symptom in the early stage of HIV. This rash is usually slightly raised, small and dark in color. The rash usually appears about two to three weeks after infection, around the time your body begins to make antibodies to the HIV virus, a process called seroconversion. Once your body starts making antibodies, you may begin to test positive for HIV.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting may be symptoms of early HIV infection. Nausea and vomiting can occur with flu-like symptoms up to two to three weeks after exposure.

Muscle Aches

You may experience muscle aches in early HIV infection. Muscle aches may occur in conjunction with flu-like symptoms and a rash about two to three weeks following infection.

Yeast Infections

A possible sign of HIV infection in women can be recurring yeast infections. As the HIV virus weakens the immune system the body becomes more prone to developing infections. Candida, or yeast, is more likely to thrive in a woman who is HIV positive. Many factors besides HIV infection can contribute to the development of vaginal yeast infections, however. Still, if you experience chronic vaginal yeast infections your physician may want to test you for HIV.

About this Author

Laura Candelaria is a family nurse practitioner and assistant professor of nursing and nutritional science. Her experience includes neonatal and pediatric intensive-care, women’s oncology, gynecology, obstetrics, lactation, nutrition, and infertility. She has been published in “Nursing Spectrum,” “Newsday,” and LIVESTRONG Health.