HIV seroconversion illness

HIV seroconversion is the name given to a group of symptoms that can happen when someone first gets HIV.

During this time, there are very high levels of HIV in the body. This is known as a high viral load. When a person has a high viral load, they can easily pass HIV to others.


When a person gets HIV, the virus makes copies called CD4 lymphocytes. The immune system responds and the body begins to make antibodies to HIV. This immune response causes the symptoms of the seroconversion illness.


During the early stage of new HIV infection, up to 90% of people will experience flu-like symptoms. This usually happens about two to four weeks after they come in contact with HIV. The symptoms may last for one or two weeks and include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Swollen glands
  • Feeling tired
  • Joint or muscle pain

Other less common symptoms include: loss of appetite, weight loss, headache, stiff neck, mouth ulcers, sore throat, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

If you are worried about symptoms, see a health care provider for testing.

Tests & Diagnosis

The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get a blood test. Tests either look for antibodies or a small amount of the virus itself.


There are health care providers in British Columbia with HIV care, treatment, and support. For more about HIV, see HIV and AIDS and visit the links to other websites.

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