What are the Early Stage of HIV Symptoms?

What are the Early Stage of HIV Symptoms?

What is HIV ARS?

HIV Acute Retroviral Syndrome (ARS) is the body’s early response to a HIV infection. HIV symptoms will take time to occur, at least two to six weeks for this is how long the body will take to mount an immune response that will give off these HIV symptoms.

What are the early symptoms of HIV infection?

HIV is a virus that attacks the body as a whole with nearly every organ system being affected. The severity and combination of the disease presentation may vary from person to person though. An abbreviated list is shown below.

General – Fever, Sweats, Lethargy, Malaise, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss

Skin – Rash, ulcers , Sore throat

Digestive – Nausea, Diarrhea, Loss of Appetite

Neurological – Headache

Musculo-Skeletal - Muscle aches, Joint aches


Who gets HIV ARS symptoms?

There is no method to ascertain who develops ARS symptoms and when they get it. It is widely thought that between 50-90% of people who are infected with HIV gets the HIV ARS symptoms.

When do HIV symptoms appear and how long do they last?

Most people report symptoms at about three weeks post exposure to the virus. The symptoms can occur anytime between two and six weeks post infection though. Usually, once developed, symptoms last two weeks but there have been reports of symptoms persisting up to ten weeks post infection.

‘Flu-like’ is not ‘Cold-like’

ARS has been described as mononucleosis-like symptoms. These usually result in a persistently high fever, horrible bodyaches and absolute lethargy.

This is not similar to when someone has the ‘flu’ which usually is interpreted as having a runny nose, sore throat or mild cough.

The HIV ARS Rash

The basic rule of thumb is that if you have to hunt for a spot of rash on your body, it is not a HIV rash. A HIV rash is a generalised red rash that looks similar to measles. It comes on two to three days after a fever and lasts for at least two weeks. It is usually up to 1cm in diameter and almost always appears at the upper chest and shoulder areas.

The HIV ARS Fever

The HIV ARS fever is a high grade fever (>38.5 Celcius) and is associated with tiredness, muscle aches, and joint pains. It usually last more than two weeks but can be longer.

The HIV ARS Lymph Nodes

Enlarging lymph nodes usually are a sign of an active infection in the body. In thin individuals, a normal non-enlarged lymph node may be palpated at normal times. This is not a cause of concern.

HIV ARS lymph node enlargment is usually painful and are about 1cm in diameter. It can present in the neck, groin and underarms.

The HIV ARS Sore Throat and Mouth Ulcers

HIV ARS causes a really bad throat infection that lead to a painful swallowing because of the inflammation with pus noted from the tonsils at times. The tonsils can be enlarged with ulcers forming on them as well. These ulcers are usually five to ten millimeters around .

What other diseases have the same symptoms as HIV ARS (HIV Symptoms)?

HIV Acute Retroviral Syndrome can mimick a lot of other conditions because of the early nature of the infection. Illnesses such as Influenza, infectious mononucleosis, acute Hepatitis A or B, Parvovirus, Cytomegalovirus, Rubella and Toxoplasma infections must be ruled out first.


The only way to know for sure if you are infected with HIV or not is to get tested. Until that is done, try not to worry about your HIV symptoms.

If you have to worry, then worry if you fulfil the following criteria:

  • You have had a high risk exposure 2 to 6 weeks ago
  • You have a fever above 38.5⁰C that just does not go away
  • You have multiple small red spots covering your face, neck and upper chest
  • You have a really bad sore throat with ulcers in your mouth
  • You have been diagnosed with another STD like Gonorrhea or Chlamydia

Comment on "What are the Early Stage of HIV Symptoms?"

  1. Jane

    Hi Doctor,
    Can a pregnant mother with HIV prevent the disease to her infant ?

    • Dr. Kaarthig

      Prevention of transmission is honestly difficult Jane. Here, our maternal and child care centers will extensively screen and counsel the mother before, during and after the pregnancy

  2. Gloria

    Hello Doctor,
    Does a woman having sex with another woman at risk of HIV ?

    • Dr. Kaarthig

      Yes, of course. If the partner is HIV positive, chances of transmission are there but is definitely less than a conventional relationship where there is penetrative sex.

  3. Dnn

    Good day doctor ,first forgive my English level , i find the sex worker at 19/12/2017 ,no protect oral sex ,and protect sexual , But when she lay and kiss me, when my penis (glans) and her vagina have contact with the case did not wear condom at that time ,I am not sure if there is no contact with vaginal fluid if there is infection Is HIV high risk? A week later, I found three red dots in my hand..I’m very worry ..hope doctor can reply me asap

    • Dr. Kaarthig

      It honestly does not sound high risk. When you say touching, I assume its just external contact. I doubt a significant amount of vaginal fluid would have made contact or entered your urethra to cause a significant infection.

      The rash on your hand may not be indicative of a HIV infection

  4. Noname

    Hello doctor ,if Vaginal fluid hit the penis is it high risk?But sexual with protected

  5. Pancracio

    Hi doctor,
    5 weeks ago I had a sexual encounter with a sex worker. Oral sex unprotected and vaginal/ anal sex protected. She was on the last phase of her period and some menstrual blood touch the base of my penis and hand (My Skin was complétela Healthy). After 3-4 days I started to feel muscle weakness on the legs and a week later a burning sensation of the skin (specially when I was thinking about the risks of the encounter). After that, on the third week I felt a lot of thirst and my mouth was very dry. On the four week I had huge back pain specially in the upper section and now (5th week) I’m starting to have some light sore throat. During the last 5 weeks I have been super stressed about the topic and not sure if my ‘symptoms‘ are originared due to the high Levels of Stress and Anxiety. 2 weeks ago I had a normal blood test and everything was ok. But it was not an hiv test to be clear. Should I be worried about it?

  6. Venoth

    Hi doctors i had a sex 2 months ago and i test hiv was negative.is that accurate

  7. sidd

    hi doctor i had test of hiv 1 rna pcr on 17th day of exposure and the test was negative do i have to retest??

  8. Venoth

    Hiv ab ag p24 test. I test after 2 months and it show negative but protected sex…but i worry a bit …

    • Dr. Kaarthig

      You may continue worrying but the test result will stand true to your negative status. Do yourself a huge favour and try to let it go if all the proper testing has been conducted

  9. Venoth

    Should i get to tested again doctor…..

  10. Frey

    Hi Doctor, I had a rapid test on 17th day of exposure the result was negative. After that, I had high fever, sore throat, red needle like blood for on hand and some other symptoms on third week of exposure after the rapid test.

    On day 36, I did blood test on BP lab written in the report HIV Ag/Ab (CMIA). Result was non reactive.

    Do I need a retest?

    • Dr. Kaarthig

      If you are having symptoms, it is advisable to re-test. I would repeat testing at three months post exposure as well

      • Frey

        Hi Doctor,

        Is it mean that the test on day 17 and day 36 mean nothing at all? I need to wait three month post exposure for another test only can conclusive whether I was infected or not?

        • Dr. Kaarthig

          Like I said, if you are having symptoms, its advisable to re-test. I dont know if these symptoms are coming on after a new encounter you see. 4th generation testing is conclusive after 28 days post potential exposure

          • Frey

            Hi Doctor,

            My only exposure is on 19th Jan, after that i did had fever, sore thorat etc..

            I did a blood test on day 17, day 36 with result non reactive. And on 19th Apr another test with HIV Ab / Ag (CMIA) with result non reactive. Is the result convulsive?

          • Dr. Kaarthig

            To be concise, yes; is it conclusive

  11. Venoth

    Doctor what kind hiv test should i do to know my status and when should i do….

  12. D

    I visited a sex worker more than 3 months back and engaged in protected sex. Not long after, I had a case of itchy rashes which appeared on my arms and looked like insect bites based on appearance. These disappeared after a while and have now reappeared once more. Should I be concerned that this could be a symptom?

    • Dr. Kaarthig

      Are the symptoms still there? Are they insect bites? Do you have any other symptoms? From what you tell me now, it does not seem a cause of concern but with testing so easily done, why not just test for assurance sake?

  13. Jai

    Doctor.When can detect hiv after post potential exposure and what kind of test should be take….

    • Dr. Kaarthig

      4th generation rapid test kit 28 days post infection or PCR RNA testing 11 days post infection are the quickest, most conclusive testing means. Come in to see us and we can arrange for either

  14. Jai

    Doctors what is hiv 1 2 ab ag p24 means ???

  15. Waxpyn

    Hi. Good Evening? Doctor, I had a sex with 9 different girl for last 6 months ago . It is can be infected with the HIV virus or not? Please reply

  16. Jai

    Doctor,what what type of test hiv 1 2 ab&ag p24 and when it can detect hiv after post potential exposure.is that 4th generation test?

  17. sidd

    Hi doctor my eosinophil count has been increased too much and i also have symptoms such as legs pain and feeling fatigue and tired and no other symptoms. Is this the sign of hiv??

    • Dr. Kaarthig

      HIV may mimick a lot of viral infections. These may or may not be associated with HIV. Without further history, its nearly impossible to attribute these things solely to HIV

  18. JTLF

    Hi doctor, i had unprotected sex a week ago. No any symptoms appearing but i just want to get my status cleared. How long should I wait before i get tested ?

  19. Jessica

    My skin has suddenly dried up and have many skin rashes too. I consulted a skin specialist doctor and recommended skin cream but its not working. Is this early sign of HIV?? Where can I check this out?

  20. shan

    Hi doctor ,i had sex 3 months ago and i tested at nearby clinic. The test is hiv 1&2 ab ag p24 screen and the result is non reactive.is that acurate ….

  21. Ray

    Good day dr. I am ray here. I eould like some comment for my expose. My expose was protected sex with my girl friends ( nvr see condom broke). My expose was 13 march the below is my question.
    1. Is peps will effect the acurracy of pcr rna if taking 1 days only?
    2. Is the hiv rna test on 23 march is good result.
    Thks dr.

    • Dr. Kaarthig

      1. No
      2. Its borderline – you did it at just over nine days when we know it to be accurate after a longer period of time

  22. roy

    Dr i was expose to protected sex with a girl with unknown status. I just done a combo test at 27days with the girl that i had protected sex was non reactive. And i was conduct a combo test again at 28days from the exposure also negative. Dr is my result conclusive?

  23. Sean

    Protected viginal sex with CSW in 17 Dec 2017, tested positive for Chlamydia after 3weeks (I don’t know how). Having syndrome since 3rd weeks post exposure such as sore throat for 1 months, rash skin (whole body redness skin, blanching and sometime itch), several swollen nodes at neck and extremely tiredness. Tested with Abbott Architect Combo at 3rd, 6th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 13th and 15th weeks, results show non-reactive. Rash skin and tender swollen neck node still persist until today. Is my test conclusive? Do I need to retest?

    • Dr. Kaarthig

      I would say the HIV testing is conclusive. You’d need to get worked up for other diseases to explain your symptoms

  24. Sean

    Dr. Kaarthig, thanks for the advice. Do you think my syndrome can be related to any other STD? I have taken high dose of antibiotic during windows period (amoxycilin 1000mg and clarithromycin 500mg twice a day for 2 weeks to cure H. Pylori; Doxycycline for 1week for Chlamydia), do you think this would impact my HIV test windows period? Would you recommend to retest at 6 months?

    • Dr. Kaarthig

      re-testing at six months is fine. Its not absolutely necessary but its perfectly okay to do it for completion sake. Your antibiotics would not have affected the HIV testing outcome

  25. Skv

    Hi doctor, i would like to check, i had an encounter with a csw on 4 may 2017 and had a fever on 22nd may but the fever went away on 23rd, no skin rashes or lymph nodes…and after that there is no fever, i dnt feel fatigue and im quite active. And it was a protected intercourse. Do i need to worry. Please advice

    • Dr. Kaarthig

      If this was a year ago and those are all the symptoms you’ve had, I dont see a need to be worried. Testing is simple enough. Please get yourself checked out. Come in to the clinic and we can go over these issues

  26. Graham

    Hi Doctor,

    Is an Ag/Ab 4th Generation (Roche/Cobas, by Quantum Diagnostics Malaysia) conclusive if taken at 5 weeks post-potential exposure?

    Many thanks in advance, and for this very helpful and insightful forum.

  27. Graham

    Hi Doctor,

    Sorry not sure my last post posted correctly. Would you say a negative DUO 4th Generation (Roche, Cobas) at 35 days is conclusive? Other party claims completely clean, but just wanting a bit of reassurance on the matter.

    Many thanks.

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