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.

33 comments

  1. Roy Trevelion

    We are not doctors and so we can’t answer questions about symptoms.

    And i-Base no longer answers individual questions about risks of HIV transmission or HIV testing. This service is based on information relating to HIV treatment for people who are HIV positive.

    Most questions about transmission and testing have been answered here:
    http://i-base.info/qa/factsheets/hiv-transmission-and-testing

  2. james

    I experience fatigue, chills, headache and night sweats can it be that I have contracted HIV ?

  3. Roy Trevelion

    We are not doctors, unfortunately we cannot diagnose symptoms.

    As it says above, 20% of people have no symptoms during seroconversion. The only way to know if you are HIV positive is by taking an HIV test. More information on tests is at this link.

    It’s important that you see your doctor about the swollen lymph nodes, burning sensations and nausea.

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