The early symptoms of HIV can be confusing. In fact, most people aren’t at first aware that they have been infected with the virus. It’s common for early symptoms to become apparent within two to six weeks after infection. That’s because this is the stage at which your immune system starts fighting the virus.

If you’re wondering about the early symptoms of HIV in males or need to know when the early symptoms of HIV start, then you’ve arrived exactly where you need to be.

Knowing the early symptoms of an HIV infection can be very helpful. However, HIV testing is the only way to be sure that you know what you’re dealing with. Getting tested is very important because if you start antiviral drug treatment early, it can make the virus undetectable, which can help prevent transmission to others.

Early HIV Symptoms

Most people who become infected with HIV will begin with a brief illness that could be mistaken for a cold or the flu. Doctors call this early illness primary HIV infection or acute retroviral syndrome. Estimates suggest that as many as 80 percent of people with HIV experience this early-stage illness.

The symptoms generally develop over a period of two to four weeks after virus transmission. Because these symptoms also occur with the common cold and other common illnesses, it’s essential to get tested if you could be at risk for HIV transmission and you are experiencing them.

Common early HIV symptoms include:

  • Fever – A temperature above 100.4ºF or 38ºC is one of the most common early symptoms of HIV in males and females.
  • Sore throat or swollen glands – A sore throat or swollen glands may accompany the fever.
  • Body rash – Early HIV rashes typically appear on the torso or face, though the feet and hands also may be affected. The skin may appear red and slightly raised but may have a more purple cast on people with darker skin tones. Occasionally, the rash may be itchy or painful. This rash is the earliest warning sign of HIV infection in many cases.
  • Fatigue – A person may experience fatigue after an HIV infection because the body is trying to fight off the virus.
  • Joint and muscle pain – Achy joints or muscle pain could be an early sign of HIV.
  • Nasal congestion –  A stuffy nose or nasal congestion is a common sign of HIV acute retroviral syndrome.

The above symptoms are all signs that your immune system is doing its utmost to fight the infection.

When Do Early Symptoms of HIV Start?

Early symptoms usually start within a week to two months after exposure. The early HIV symptoms may last for as long as one or two weeks, though some people may experience them for longer.

After the initial period, there may be no symptoms for years. However, the virus doesn’t go away on its own just because there are no symptoms. It could eventually progress to stage 3. At this stage, the virus has likely caused a lot of damage to your immune system.


Can You Get HIV from Oral Sex?

 Is it COVID-19, the Flu or Something Else?

If you have recently asked yourself, “When do early symptoms of HIV start,” then it’s likely that you are experiencing these symptoms after possible HIV exposure.

The only way to get a definitive answer to the above question is with an HIV test — mainly since the above symptoms occur with many other illnesses, including COVID-19 and the flu.

Ensure your health with regular STI testing or, at a minimum, whenever you engage with a new partner.


  1. NHS: Overview: HIV and AIDS
  2. Terrence Higgins Trust: Stages of HIV infection
  3. WIRED: Doctors were sure they had Covid-19. The reality was worse

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