How long does it take to show symptoms of HIV

How long does it take to show symptoms of HIV? People who suspect been exposed to HIV often ask this question and in this post, you’ll know the answer to this question.

But before you get to know the answer to this question, let’s get to know more about the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

What is HIV?

how long does it take to show symptoms of hiv

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the human immune system and if it is not treated can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).

Currently, there is no effective cure for HIV. If you get it, you have it for life. However, with proper medical care, the virus can be controlled.

People with HIV who get effective treatment can live long, have a healthy life and protect their partners.

How do I know if I have HIV?

The only way you can know for certain if you have the virus is to get tested. Even though HIV can cause symptoms, they are not a reliable way to know if you are infected.

Knowing your HIV status will help you make healthy decisions that will prevent you from getting or transmitting the virus.

What are the signs and symptoms of HIV?

The first sign of an HIV infection is a flu-like illness including:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Body ache
  • Maculopapular truncal rash
  • Chills
  • excessive fatique
  • Headache
  • Swollen lymph modes
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Night sweats

However, some people may not feel sick during acute HIV infection. These symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have the virus. Other illnesses can cause these same symptoms.

It is advisable to see a health care provider if you have these symptoms and think you may have been exposed to HIV. The best way to know for sure whether you have the virus is to get tested.

Stages of HIV

When people with HIV don’t get treatment, they usually go through three stages. However, HIV medicine i.e. antiretroviral therapy (ART) can slow or prevent the progression of the disease. With the advancement in treatment today, it is less common for the virus to get to stage three.

Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection

This is the first stage of HIV infection where people have a large amount of HIV in their blood which is very contagious. Some people even have flu-like symptoms (like the ones mentioned above) and some people may not feel sick immediately or at all.

If you have flu-like symptoms and think you may have been exposed to HIV, see a health care provider and ask for a test to diagnose acute HIV infection.

Stage 2: Chronic HIV Infection

This is the second stage of HIV infection and it is also called asymptomatic HIV infection or clinical latency. In this stage, the virus is still active but reproduces at very low levels.

People may not have any symptoms or get sick during this stage. Without taking HIV medicine, this phase may last a decade or longer, but some may progress faster.

In this phase, people can transmit HIV. And at the end of this stage, the amount of HIV in the blood known as viral load goes up and the CD4 cell count goes down.

People may have symptoms as the virus levels increase in their bodies, which will eventually move to stage 3. But people who take prescribed HIV medicine may never move into stage 3.

Stage 3: AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)

AIDS is the most severe stage of HIV infection. People with AIDS have very damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses called opportunistic infections (illnesses that occur more frequently).

You may receive an AIDS diagnosis when your CD4 cell count drops below 200 cells/mm, or if you develop certain opportunistic infections.

People with AIDS can have a high viral load and be very infectious and without treatment, they typically survive about three years.

how long does it take to show symptoms of hiv

How long does it take to show symptoms of HIV?

The signs and symptoms of HIV may show up within two to four weeks of initial infection. The stage in which these symptoms appear is known as the stage of acute HIV infection.

The symptoms appear due to the fight or resistance of the immune system against HIV. The symptoms can continue for several weeks. However, some people may show the symptoms only for a few days.

Sometimes, people with early HIV don’t show any symptoms, yet they can transmit the virus to others. This is because of the fast, unrestrained viral replication that occurs in the early weeks after contracting HIV infection.

Tests for detecting HIV

There are three main types of tests can be used for HIV detection and they include:

1. HIV antibody test

HIV antibody test detects the antibodies produced (within 2-12 weeks of infection) in the body in response to HIV. This test only look for antibodies to HIV in your blood or oral fluid.

Generally, an antibody test that uses blood from the vein can detect the virus faster than tests done with blood from a finger prick or with oral fluid.

2. Antigen test

An antigen test can be done at an earlier stage than an HIV antibody test. This test looks for both HIV antibodies and antigens. Antibodies are produced by human immune systems when they are exposed to viruses like HIV.

Antigens are foreign substances that cause your immune system to activate and if you have HIV, an antigen called p24 is produced even before antibodies develop.

3. Nucleic acid test (NAT)

A nucleic acid test looks for the actual virus in the blood and involves drawing blood from a vein. A NAT can either tell if a person has HIV or tell how much virus is present in the blood.

This test is very expensive can detect HIV sooner than other types of tests.


Certainly, by now you must have gotten the answer to the question “How long does it take to show symptoms of HIV”.

You can start noticing the symptoms after two to four weeks of the first stage of the HIV infection.

If you have flu-like symptoms and may think you have been exposed to the virus, kindly visit a health care center for a test and diagnoses. This way, you will know for sure if you have the virus or not.

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