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HIV Symptoms in Men

Medically Reviewed by Jonathan E. Kaplan, MD on January 14, 2020

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:

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

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, see a doctor right away. If it’s been 72 hours or less, you can take something called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). You take HIV medicine once or twice a day for 28 days that may keep you from getting HIV.

It’s important to get tested for HIV. If you’re infected, you can take HIV drugs called antiretroviral therapy (ART). This combination of medicines lowers the amount of HIV in your body. It can help keep your immune system healthy, protect against complications, and keep you from spreading HIV.

If you have been exposed to HIV, 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:

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

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
  • Pneumonia
  • 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.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

AIDS: “HIV and Hypogonadism.”

BMJ Case Reports: “Chronic Penile Ulcer as the First Manifestation of HIV Infection.”

CDC: “Acute HIV Infection,” “PrEP.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Hypogonadism.”

HIV.gov: “How Can You Tell if You Have HIV?”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “HIV/AIDS and Skin Conditions.”

Mayo Clinic: “Early HIV Symptoms: What Are They?” “HIV/AIDS,” Hypogonadism.”

Sexual Medicine Reviews: “HIV and Men.”

Stanford Health Care: “Treatment for HIV/AIDS.”

UpToDate: “Symptoms of HIV Infection.”

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