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HIV Signs and Symptoms Timeline: How Does HIV Progress?

Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, MD · Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jun 07, 2021

    HIV Signs and Symptoms Timeline: How Does HIV Progress?

    People can easily get infected with HIV. But with regard to how quickly it progresses, it varies based on the HIV signs and symptoms timeline.

    Being aware of the HIV signs and symptoms timeline allows people to become more informed of what happens to a person’s body if they get infected with the disease.

    HIV Signs and Symptoms Timeline

    The timeline of HIV signs and symptoms can vary from person to person. The timeline is generally divided into stages, which are the following:

    1. Acute HIV infection
    2. Clinical latency
    3. AIDS

    Here is a breakdown of what happens as the disease progresses:

    2-4 weeks after infection

    This stage is also known as the infection stage. Symptoms usually start to appear about 2-4 weeks after the person is infected. The symptoms are pretty mild, and can easily be confused for the flu.

    Here are some of the possible symptoms during this stage:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • It’s also possible for people who are infected to not have any symptoms at all. This is why getting tested for HIV is very important when it comes to early detection.

    Chronic HIV Infection

    This stage is also called asymptomatic HIV infection or clinical latency.

    Asymptomatic stage

    After being infected, patients with HIV can go into an asymptomatic stage. This means that they are already infected by HIV, but don’t really experience any of the symptoms associated with the disease.

    This period can last for a number of years, with some people even going 10-15 years without any outward symptoms.

    However, the virus is slowly replicating inside their body. This also means that they can easily pass on the disease through unprotected sex.

    If no treatment is done at this stage, then over time, the infection will worsen and cause more serious health problems.

    HIV signs and symptoms timeline

    At the end of the spectrum, those with chronic HIV infection may experience the symptoms of the disease.

    Towards the end part of this stage, their immune system is already compromised. For those not being treated, the viral load tends to go up and the CD4 cell count goes down. CD4 cells are white blood cells, called T-cells, that move throughout your body to find and destroy infection.The person may have symptoms as the virus levels increase in the body, and the person moves into stage 3 or AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).This means that their body cannot fight off infections as easily as before, and makes the body more prone to infections. The symptoms start mild, but can quickly get worse.

    Here are some of the possible symptoms of chronic HIV infection:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Persistent cough
  • Mouth sores and skin problems
  • Easily gets sick
  • It is very important for patients who have a chronic HIV infection to take their medication. Medication doesn’t “cure” the disease, but it can significantly keep the infection under control.

    In fact, the earlier a person takes their medication, the better the disease can be controlled. It’s even possible for persons with HIV to have an undetectable viral load, which means they can no longer infect other people.

    However, this can only be done by staying healthy, and making sure to take the right HIV medication.

    How to Prevent HIV From Progressing to AIDS

    AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)

    If HIV is not controlled, and the person’s immune system is seriously compromised, it can lead to AIDS.

    Without treatment, people with AIDS can easily get infected with disease. Even something like the common cold can prove to be fatal for someone with AIDS. However, AIDS can still be managed. If treatment is done in time, patients can successfully recover from AIDS, and keep their HIV under control.

    It’s much better to not wait until HIV develops into AIDS before something is done about it. This is because HIV can be managed more easily if treatment starts early on, rather than if it happens when a person’s immune system is already seriously compromised.

    Key Takeaways

    Aside from being aware of the HIV signs and symptoms timeline, it’s important for everyone to practice safe sex to prevent the transmission and spread of the disease. Consult your doctor should you suspect that you have the condition.

    Learn more about HIV and AIDS here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

    Obstetrics and Gynecology

    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jun 07, 2021

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