Acute HIV Infection

Fifty to ninety percent of people ultimately diagnosed with HIV, have symptoms 2-4 weeks after their initial exposure. Many of these individuals may seek medical care to address these symptoms. Acute HIV infection (seroconversion illness) is most typically characterized by a mild fever, and swollen lymph nodes. The symptoms of acute HIV infection (seroconversion illness) may mimic infectious mononucleosis.

The following symptoms are typical:

  • Fever, above 38°C, but usually mild. Lasts about 1-2 weeks.
  • Addition symptoms often concurrent with the fever: sore throat, headache, muscle and joint pain
  • Two-three days after the fever starts, a rash may develop. It usually affects the face, neck, and upper chest, but may be more widespread. It usually lasts 5-8 days and may or may not be itchy. It is most typically a flat red area covered with small bumps.
  • In the second week of fever, many people experience swollen lymph nodes. The swelling is usually painless and may linger.
  • About half of people who have symptoms may experience GI upset (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea)

A small proportion of people with signs of acute infection develop small, painful open sores in/on the mouth, esophagus, genitals or anus (mucosal ulceration).

For more detailed information, see the Ontario Guidelines for Providers Offering HIV Testing.