HIV can look different in each person. Not everyone will have the same set of symptoms, and some may not have any signs for a long time.
Most of the time, the signs of HIV are the same for men and women. But there are a few symptoms that are unique to men.
Symptoms Specific to Men
It's important to note that these male-specific symptoms can also be signs of other conditions. If you have any of these, make sure to speak with your doctor.
Low sex drive. This is a sign of hypogonadism, which means your testicles don’t make enough of the sex hormone testosterone. This condition is tied to HIV.
Hypogonadism can also cause:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Less hair growth on the body and face
- Breast tissue growth
Sores on the penis. A common sign of HIV is painful open sores, or ulcers on your mouth or esophagus. They can also appear on your anus or penis. These sores often keep coming back.
Pain or burning while peeing. In most cases, this is a symptom of a sexually transmitted infection like gonorrhea or chlamydia. It may signal swelling of the prostate, a small gland beneath the bladder. This condition is called prostatitis. It’s sometimes caused by a bacterial infection.
Other symptoms of prostatitis include:
- Pain during ejaculation
- Peeing more often than usual
- Cloudy or bloody pee
- Pain in the bladder, testicles, penis, or the area between the scrotum and rectum
- Lower back, abdomen, or groin pain
There are other symptoms that aren't exclusive to men but are important to keep an eye on.
Early HIV Symptoms
Within 4 weeks of when you become infected, a flu-like illness can arrive. This is your body’s natural response to the HIV infection.
It can last anywhere from a few days to several months. You might have:
- Sore throat
- Skin rash
- Swollen lymph glands
- Night sweats
- Aching muscles or joints
- Ulcers in the mouth
Not everyone with HIV has these early flu-like symptoms. Only about 1 in 3 people get them. Others may not feel any different during this period.
Experts call this stage acute or primary HIV infection. It’s when the HIV virus enters certain types of white blood cells. It makes billions of copies of itself, spreading throughout the body. During this time, you have a higher chance of transmitting the virus to other people because there are large amounts of the virus in your bodily fluids.
Later-Stage HIV Symptoms
After HIV wins against your immune system, it spreads at a slower rate. This stage is called chronic or clinical latency. In many cases, you won’t have any more symptoms.
Without treatment, this stage can last 10 to 15 years. But if you take ART regularly, you may stay in this stage for decades.
AIDS is the last stage of HIV. This is when the virus has seriously damaged your immune system. Your body can’t fight off many infections, which can lead to symptoms.
Signs of AIDS include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Fast weight loss
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
- Sores in your mouth, anus, or genitals
- Fever or severe night sweats that keep coming back
- Memory loss
- Red, brown, pink, or purple blotches on or under the skin
If you have AIDS, your doctor will prescribe ART to keep your immune system as healthy as possible. You may also need medicine for any infections or issues caused by your weakened immune system.