HIV Symptoms in Women

Medically Reviewed by Jonathan E. Kaplan, MD on September 05, 2022
3 min read

The symptoms of HIV are mostly the same for men and women. But there can be some differences between the genders.

There are a few signs that happen only in women, often in the later stages of infection:

Changes in your period. You may have lighter or heavier bleeding, skip periods, or have severe PMS. Stress or other STDs, which are common with HIV, can cause these issues. But they may also happen because of the virus's effects on your immune system, which may change your hormones.

Lower belly pain. This is one of the signs of an infection of your uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can also cause:

Vaginal yeast infections. Many women with HIV get these often, sometimes several times a year. When you get a yeast infection, you can have:

Cernical Cancer. While not a symptom of HIV, cervical cancer can be an AIDS-defining condition. Women with HIV should be screened for cervical cancer annually and treated as needed. 

For both men and women, about 2 to 4 weeks after you’re infected, you may feel like you have the flu. It’s a sign that your body is responding to the virus. This may last a few weeks.

Symptoms of a new HIV infection include:

Men and women with HIV can get a yeast infection of the mouth, called thrush or oral candidiasis. It causes swelling and a thick white coating over your mouth, tongue, and throat.

Some people have no symptoms of early HIV infection. But you should get tested if you think you might have been exposed to HIV.

See your doctor or go to the emergency room right away if you think you could have been exposed to the virus in the past couple of days. Medications called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can keep you from getting HIV. But they work only if you take them within 72 hours of getting the virus. Your doctor can give you a prescription for PEP, and you’ll take them once or twice a day for 28 days.

After flu-like symptoms in the first few weeks, you’ll go into what doctors call the clinical latency stage, also called asymptomatic HIV infection or chronic HIV infection. You’ll start to feel better while the virus makes copies of itself in your body. Most people don’t have any symptoms during this stage.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) medicines will keep you healthy and keep you from spreading HIV to others. If you take the drugs as prescribed, you can stay in the latency stage for decades and even have a regular life span.

Be up-front about your condition with potential sex partners. They should get tested for HIV. Use a condom correctly every time you have sex to protect against HIV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.