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Early Symptoms of HIV & Testing

Early HIV symptoms or Acute Retroviral Syndrome is commonly missed by patients and doctors after a possible HIV exposure. It is not surprising as the symptoms of HIV infection are very similar to the symptoms of any disease caused by infection such as tonsillitis, influenza, chest infection, etc.

FreedomHealth HIV Testing

Ultra-fast HIV test

From 10 days after possible exposure using PCR/NAAT testing for HIV 1 and HIV 2 RNA. Results may take up to 5 working days.

£280 (all inclusive)

HIV DUO test

From 28 days after possible exposure using combined HIV 1 and 2 antibodies and HIV 1 p24 antigen testing. Results available in 4 working hours.

£140 (all inclusive)

HIV 1 and 2 antibody test

90 days after possible exposure using the HIV INSTI test with results in 60 seconds.

£140 (all inclusive)

If you think there is a strong possibility that you have been exposed to and infected with HIV then an HIV test is the only way to be sure about this. Testing for HIV is much easier than it used to be. At Freedomhealth we are able to test you for HIV from as early as 10 days after infection. We provide three main HIV tests.

HIV Symptoms

  • High fever
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Chest infection or cough
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Large lymph glands (neck, armpits and groins)
  • Pains in the joints or muscles


Watch video

Dr Sean Cummings and Dr Mervyn Tyrer discuss HIV Symptoms and their signs Watch Video »

The major symptoms generally occur in the first 2 to 4 weeks after infection but the symptoms of early HIV infections do not always appear in 70% of the patients who we treat at Freedom Health. Symptoms are known to develop between 2 to 12 weeks after possible exposure to HIV but you will only become HIV positive if the person you have had penetrative sex with is HIV positive.

You can see that the symptoms of HIV infection are very similar to the symptoms of any disease caused by infection such as tonsillitis, chest infection, influenza etc. All of these are much more common and it is much more likely that if you do have these that they are not early symptoms of HIV but symptoms due to something else. Anxiety itself is a powerful condition and can persuade people that they have symptoms which in fact they don’t.

Major Early HIV Symptoms

These three major symptoms/signs will almost always occur together in early HIV infection. Other HIV symptoms and signs are less suggestive of acute HIV infection.

  • Very high fever
  • A very sore throat
  • Whole body maculopapular rash

Acute Early HIV Symptoms

All of these symptoms and signs are very general and may be symptoms of other conditions or infections. Remember that you can only become HIV positive if you have been exposed to HIV in the first place.

  • Muscular aches and pains
  • Persistent headache
  • Mouth ulcers and sores
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting and Diarrhoea

The important thing is to avoid putting yourself in a position where you might have to worry about the early symptoms of HIV, in general this means using a condom for penetrative sex – whether anal or vaginal. If you use a condom and it stays on and does not rip then the chances of HIV infection are almost zero.

If you don’t use a condom or it breaks then it might be an idea to consider using Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). This is a one month course of anti-HIV medications designed to try to interrupt new infections with HIV. It is best taken as early as possible after an unsafe episode. It is available from us, but is expensive privately, or free of charge from a GUM clinic or an Accident Dept in the UK.


Can I catch HIV from kissing?


Can I catch HIV from sucking a penis?

Catching HIV from sucking a penis is very, very unlikely. There are a few cases reported worldwide but the best studies show a minimal to zero risk. The risk will change if the guy being sucked ejaculates or “cums” into your mouth, but still the risk has shown to be small.

Can I catch HIV from being sucked?

This is even less likely than sucking. I’m not aware of any case reports or any personal knowledge of that.

Can I catch HIV from licking a vagina?

Again catching HIV from licking a vagina is very, very unlikely. The general consensus is that if the woman is bleeding then that will increase the risk but otherwise the risk is minimal.

If you are the female in this oral episode then there is virtually no risk of acquiring HIV this way.

Can I catch HIV from touching dried or cold semen – on a sex workers sheets or in a sex club?

No – not the most pleasant thing maybe but HIV is a fragile virus and requires ideal conditions to spread. Semen once dried or cold is not an HIV threat.

One thing you should remember is that other STD’s are much more efficient at spreading than HIV. They will if present together, increase the risk of picking up HIV. Using condoms reduces the risk of these as well.

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60 Harley Street,




020 7637 1600

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