Q and A


How does HIV affect lymph nodes in the body, and for how long?

How does HIV affect lymph nodes in the body, and for how long, especially in the neck?



Within a few days of infection, HIV reaches the lymph nodes closest to the part of your body where infection occurred, For the next couple of weeks, HIV replicates in the CD4 cells inside these lymph nodes.

Then when these lymph nodes get so enlarged that they burst, HIV quickly travels throughout your body, including to other lymph nodes.

For the rest of your life (unless a cure is found) HIV is likely to be in lymph nodes, even though HIV meds (ART) keep these levels very low.

Other infections can also cause lymph nodes to get bigger, so it is important to talk to your doctor about this. For example, coinfections with flu or TB  often cause lymph nodes in the neck to get bigger.

Please talk to your doctor about this, especially if they are tender or painful.


  1. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Tracy,

    What does your doctor say? Did it take 2 years to reach undetectable viral load? This seems longer than average. So please check with your doctor and ask if your meds are working well.

    You can also ask the doctor to check your lymph nodes and any other symptoms you’re having.

    Do you have access to your CD4 count? Please let us know and also tell us what HIV meds you’re taking.

  2. Tracy

    Hi. I’ve been on treatment for 2 years now and last tested had reached undetectable viral load. Recently the lymph nodes under my jaw are swollen again for the past 2 weeks. Other symptoms include slight fatigue. Could this be a sign that I’ve become resistant to my current regimen and my viral load is back to replicating rapidly?

  3. Simon Collins

    Hi Yak, your body has hundreds of lymph nodes all over your body. Some of the ones closest to the surface (ie so you can feel them) are in your groin, your armpits and sometimes your neck. This answer has a little more information.
    This links to a webpage with several pictures of lymph nodes in different parts of your body.

  4. Yak

    Where is this lymph nodes located and how do I identify it?


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