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Acute HIV infection

  • Alternative Names

    Primary HIV infection; HIV seroconversion syndrome; Acute retroviral syndrome; HIV infection - acute


    Note: At the time of diagnosis with HIV, many people have not experienced any symptoms.

    Acute HIV infection can appear like infectious mononucleosis, flu, or other viral illnesses. If symptoms occur, they are usually seen 1 - 4 weeks after becoming infected.

    Any of the following symptoms can occur:

    • Decreased appetite
    • Fatigue
    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Malaise
    • Muscle stiffness or aching
    • Rash
    • Sore throat
    • Swollen lymph glands
    • Ulcers of the mouth and esophagus

    These symptoms can last from a few days to 4 weeks, and then subside.

    Signs and tests

    HIV ELISA/Western blot test is usually negative or undetermined during the acute infection and will become positive over the next 3 months.

    HIV RNA test ("viral load") is positive in patients with acute HIV infection.

    Lower-than-normal CD4 (white blood cell) count may be a sign of a suppressed immune system. The CD4 count usually improves 1 - 2 months after acute infection.

    White blood cell differential may show abnormalities.