Skin rash can provide the first suspicion of early HIV infection in most individuals. When HIV early signs (mostly cutaneous) are correlated with systemic symptoms HIV infection can be suspected and diagnosed early. Although there is no cure for HIV, it can be managed effectively with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and prevent complications and opportunists infection so one can live a normal life.

Signs and symptoms of HIV can occur as early as 5 days to 30 days following exposure to HIV, most commonly within 3-4 weeks. Early symptoms may be mild, asymptomatic or severe which might need hospitalization. It is estimated that around 60-70 percent of individuals recently infected with HIV may experience early symptoms and signs. These symptoms and signs can be divided into systemic and cutaneous which are discussed below.

Early Systemic Symptoms of HIV Infection

More than 80-90 percent of individuals may experience fever, lethargy and malaise. About 50-70 percent may experience muscular pain and joint pain; night sweat may be associated in around 50 percent of the patients, weight loss may be seen in about 25 percent of the patients, and other symptoms like headache, nausea vomiting, diarrhea etc, may be seen in around 30-60 percent of the patients. Few patients may also present with swollen lymph nodes. Below are the lists of early symptoms of HIV (Systemic).

Early Symptoms of HIV Infection

  • Swollen cervical, axillary and inguinal lymph nodes
  • Fever, Fatigue, muscular pain and joint pain
  • Vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea
  • Anorexia, weight loss and depression
  • Cough, pharyngitis and tonsillitis
  • Nausea, dizziness, headache
  • Sore eyes, photophobia
  • Oral candidosis
  • Night sweats
Mucocutaneous Signs and Symptoms of HIV Infection

Skin rash is seen in around 50-60 percent of the patients following HIV infection and usually appears 2-3 days after onset of fever. These infectious exanthema consists of pink macules and perifollicular papules that may erupt on face, palms and soles, but can occur on any parts of the body. These skin rashes may last a week and resolves. In few cases urticarial or vesicular lesions and alopecia may be present. Painful ulcers in mouth and ano-genital areas may be present.

Early Dermatological manifestations of HIV
  • Urticaria
  • Exanthema
  • Enanthema
  • Oral ulceration
  • Genital ulceration
  • Toxic erythema
  • Erythema multiforme
  • Oropharyngeal candidosis
  • Acute genitocrural intertrigo

The early symptoms and signs of patient infected with HIV may last from 1 week to 6 weeks or more. It is suggested that individual with early symptoms and signs that lasts more than 2 weeks may be associated with higher risk of developing AIDS within 3 years after initial symptoms than those with no early symptoms or that resolved within a week or two.