Even without antiretroviral treatment, most HIV-positive people have no symptoms for several years after contracting HIV. However if they remain without treatment, after a few years they may begin to experience some mild symptoms related to HIV, such as skin rashes, fatigue, night sweats, slight weight loss, mouth ulcers, and fungal skin and nail infections. These could show up five years after infection, or it could take longer.
These are not the symptoms of HIV infection itself, but of illnesses and infections that have developed as a consequence of immunosuppression, in other words the body's immune system being weakened and unable to fight infections off. The range of illnesses and symptoms that can develop is vast.
If a person continues without antiretroviral treatment, these illnesses and symptoms are likely to become more serious. When damage to the immune system is more severe, HIV positive people may experience opportunistic infections including Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) disease, cytomegalovirus (CMV), toxoplasmosis, and candidiasis. These occur in late-stage HIV disease, otherwise known as AIDS.
But with modern HIV treatment, HIV-positive people may never experience these illnesses and symptoms. People living with HIV are now able to live near-normal life spans.
More on HIV Symptoms at TheBody.com
To find out more about the symptoms of HIV infection, we recommend the following articles:
In addition, our Q&A experts sometimes address questions about symptoms in our "Ask the Experts" forums. Here are some of those questions and our experts' responses:
- Multiple negative HIV tests but lots of symptoms and partners have them too after sex
I have all kinds of problems. My hands and feet kill me at night and morning, I can't gain weight, my ears pop every time I swallow, the constant tingle in the vaginal area. I'm scared to death what is wrong and if I've infected 2 other people. Please help me with this.
- 10 years after, still worried sick
I used to be bisexual and had several high-risk encounters before I got married. I've heard that two are positive. Both my wife and I have tested negative, but the symptoms I'm having now are worrying me.