Symptoms and seroconversion

Q: What is seroconversion?

A: Seroconversion is the period when immune responses to HIV develop throughout the body.

This is usually 1-3 weeks after infection.

Up to 4 out of 5 people (80%) have symptoms. These symptoms can last for a few days or a few weeks.

But 1 out of 5 people (20%) get no symptoms.

Q: What are symptoms of seroconversion?

A: Seroconversion symptoms are often described as like a heavy flu.

They can also be similar to symptoms of other sexually transmitted diseases. Stress and anxiety can also produce symptoms even when there is no HIV.

The most common symptoms of seroconversion include:

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aching muscles and joints, and
  • Swollen lymph glands.

Having only one or two symptoms is very unlikely to be HIV.

Symptoms are NOT a reliable way of diagnosing HIV infection.This is because none of these symptoms, on their own, show that you have 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 HIV.

The only way to know is to test.

This involves waiting six weeks in the UK. Testing earlier than this involves also taking a second test after 3 months to confirm the result. See: What is the window period for an HIV test?

If you are worried about HIV, contact a doctor or sexual health clinic.

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, you can talk about whether testing is appropriate.

The clinic will be able to go through your risk in the detail that is needed.

The ‘Health services near you’ section of the NHS website includes a sexual health menu to search for clinics by town or postcode.

Last updated: 1 June 2021.