Q and A

Question

What is seroconversion and what are the symptoms?

Answer

HIV seroconversion is the time in which a person first develops antibodies for HIV. They will not yet test positive on an HIV antibody test.

The word just means that your sero status is converting from being HIV antibody negative to HIV antibody positive.

Seroconversion usually occurs about 10 days after infection, and for mostĀ people it starts 1-3 weeks after infection.

About 80% of people get symptoms but 20% do not.

Symptoms

The symptoms of HIV seroconversion resemble those of a heavy cold or flu.

They commonly involve multiple symptoms that all occur at the same time. The commonly last about a week and then resolve. If you get this heavy response and recently had a risk, it is more important to contact a doctor or clinic that can decide your level of risk.

Stress and anxiety can produce similar general symptoms even though they have not caught HIV. This includes tiredness from not sleeping, anxiety and worry.

The most common HIV seroconversion symptoms include a combination of several of the following:

  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • fever (high temperature)
  • sore throat
  • rash
  • headache
  • loss of appetite
  • aching muscles and joints
  • swollen lymph glands

Seroconversion involves several symptoms that all start at the same time. Only having one or two of these symptoms is unlikely to be HIV.

These symptoms are not a reliable way of diagnosing HIV infection.

Firstly, 20% of people who become infected with HIV have no symptoms. Secondly, none of the symptoms listed above, on their own, are an indication of HIV.

However, if you get several of these symptoms at the same time AND you have had a recent risk of exposure to HIV, then this MAY be considered an indication that you have been infected.

The only way to know if you are HIV positive is by takingĀ an HIV test. More information on tests is at this link.

If you have recently been exposed to HIV, or think you may have been exposed to HIV, then contact a doctor or sexual health clinic to talk about whether testing for HIV is appropriate.

This answer was updated in 2015 from an earlier question in 2008.


Information on this website is provided by treatment advocates and offered as a guide only. Decisions about your treatment should always be taken in consultation with your doctor.

23 comments

  1. Roy Trevelion

    Hi, Getting tested is the way to find out if you’re HIV positive. But you have to wait for 28 days after exposure so that your body has time to produce antibodies to HIV. In 95% of tests this is accurate, but 5% of people take longer to produce antibodies. But you can confirm the test after 3 months.

  2. David

    I found out last week that the guy I had bareback sex with in April and May is HIV+ from a test result he just got. He got tested cause his ex was diagnosed recently and he was feeling run down. I bottomed for him 6 times and he shot his load in my ass. I have to wait til after June 15 I was told to get tested. I dont have any symptoms but very tired at end of work day and I have a strong feeling that I have a very high probability of testing Positive.

  3. Hi,

    It is difficult to comment on wether your symptom are related to ARVs without knowing which ones you are on. If you tell me the names of your meds i might be able to give you more relevant information. It is important to tell you clinic or doctor about your symptoms. This is especially important because they involve pain. They can help you work out what is causing them and how to treat them.

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