HIV-disease has four stages. The first stage and last two are symptomatic, while the second and longest, latency, have no symptoms. The appearance of symptoms varies greatly, based on whether the individual is taking anti-retroviral therapy, general health and other variables.
Acute HIV Infection
Within the first month after infection, some people experience a flu-like illness that lasts for about 2 weeks. Symptoms include fever, headache and muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, nausea and lack of appetite, and skin rash (see links in References).
Latency is the longest stage of HIV disease. During this time, there are no symptoms of HIV. This period lasts for an average of 10 years but sometimes lasts up to 25.
Symptomatic HIV occurs after latency and generally lasts 1 to 3 years. Symptoms include persistent swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, diarrhea, night sweats, fever, skin and breathing problems.
AIDS follows symptomatic HIV when CD4+ cell counts fall below 200 per cubic milliliter of blood. Stage 4 HIV disease might follow HIV infection by more than 20 years and depends greatly on whether treatment has been administered, whether it has been effective and how well the person's general health has been maintained (smoking, diet, exercise).
The symptoms of acute HIV infection are not diagnostic for HIV, so it is important to know your status through testing. HIVTest.org provides the names and locations of testing centers based on your ZIP code (see link in Resources.