Most people who become infected with HIV do not experience any symptoms. This is why regular HIV testing (every three months) is so important if you are at risk. Some people experience flu-like symptoms a few weeks after getting infected with HIV—which can include fever, extreme tiredness, sore throat, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and rash. These symptoms can take days or weeks to appear after you’ve been infected with HIV and are called “acute retroviral syndrome.” These symptoms will go away on their own even without HIV medications, but you will still have HIV.
If HIV is not treated with medications, it can damage a certain part of your immune system called CD4 cells or T-cells. When your CD4 cell count goes down, it becomes easier to get illnesses such as pneumonia and other serious infections that your body would normally be able to fight off. These types of illnesses are called “opportunistic infections.” If someone with HIV has a CD4 count below 200 or is diagnosed with an opportunistic infection, they are said to have AIDS. It can take 2-10 years, or more, from the time someone gets HIV to the time they develop AIDS.