Think you might have been exposed to HIV?
It’s important to note not everyone exposed to the infection will show early signs or symptoms of the virus. The only way to know whether you have been infected is by getting tested.
Within two to four weeks after exposure to HIV, men and women with acute HIV infection can encounter flu-like symptoms that can last for several weeks. Feeling ill is a sign your body is responding to the virus.
Signs and symptoms of the virus include:
- Sore throat
- Oral sores and ulcers
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Night sweats
During the initial infection stages, men and women can also develop oral candidiasis or thrush. This is a yeast infection of the mouth that causes swelling and a thick white coating over your mouth, tongue and throat.
You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether you have HIV. You can look and feel healthy and still have HIV. The only way to know is to get tested.
Do women and men experience different symptoms?
In most cases, no.
However, women can experience additional symptoms, such as changes in menstrual cycles. For example, some women encounter lighter or heavier menstrual flows or missed periods. In addition, some women report having more severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during the initial infection period.
It is also common for women to have lower abdomen pain which can be a sign of an infection of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, also known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). For many women, it is one of the first signs of HIV.
Women may also experience pain during sex, abnormal vaginal discharge and vaginal yeast infections.
I feel better now, should I still get tested?
If you think you have been exposed to HIV and have previously shown symptoms of the virus, it’s important to still get tested.
Since acute HIV symptoms only last about a month, many people mistake it for a different viral infection. The second stage of HIV is usually asymptotic, causing the virus to be left untreated since people start to feel better after the initial exposure.
Untreated HIV can result in severe health issues and lead to a diagnosis of AIDS. Catching the virus early and getting treatment can help you maintain a healthy life.