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.

67 comments

  1. Drew

    Hi, I had sex with an escort on the 12/11/2016, the condom broke and I immediately replaced it. On the 5th and 18th December I had sex with another escort, both times with protection, although I did receive unprotected oral sex.
    On 25/01/17 I became ill and still m up yo this day, 3 wee later. I started having what felt like a fever, although I didn’t actually check my temperature. That passed in 24 hours. The following day I had a stomach pain which felt like when I previously had gastroenteritis and weak legs which felt unsteady. I also had a slight headache. Over the last 3 weeks the headache has remained but got worse and my legs are still weak, I also have a dry cough for nearly 2 weeks. Over the last 3 days I have checked my temperature, which always came back normal even though I felt hot. However, today my temperature was high at 100.2. I did also have had a slight earache since yesterday. What is even more worrying, is that my partner and I had unprotected sex a day before I felt ill and has had a headache since a day after I became ill.

    What are your initial thoughts please?

  2. Papa

    What is the likelihood of HIV infection if you have four of the symptoms above five days after sex. Precisely Fatique, sorethroat, headache, aching muscle and joints. After one month I did a test and it was negative. One week after the test I started having funny feelings in my neck, groin and muscle spasm in legs, neck and entire body in general. I feel something moving in my groin and neck. Spasm I guess. I need your advice

  3. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Emma,

    Do you mean can it happen several times? If you do, then no. The above post explains what seroconversion is and what happens when people seroconvert.

  4. Emma

    Is seroconversion sickness recurrent?

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