HIV Symptoms in Men

Reviewed by Ruthann Cunningham, MD, June 26, 2017

More than two-thirds of all new HIV cases occur in men. Within this group, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) make up the largest group of men who are HIV positive. Black men are disproportionately affected by the virus, followed by Latinos and then whites.

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In addition, men are typically "late presenters", meaning they don't go to the doctor and get a diagnosis until the disease has advanced to later stages. This happens for several reasons. Initial HIV symptoms in men are often vague, or tolerable ("I think I may just have the flu"), and if they're noticeable, it's still common for men to be in denial that there is a serious issue at hand. This creates a host of issues for the male patient, as their health is more adversely affected if they don't receive prompt, timely treatment.

What are the symptoms of HIV?

Since the initial HIV symptoms men experience are subtle, they sometimes go unnoticed. Patients can experience a "flu-like" illness, days to weeks after infection with the virus. HIV symptoms in men include:

  • Fever and night sweats
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Sore throat
  • Skin rash
  • Muscle soreness and joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea/vomiting

How often should men get tested for HIV?

Not knowing you have HIV can be dangerous because during the initial phase of vague symptoms, a person can transmit the virus to their partner(s) without knowing it. HIV testing for men who are sexually active is recommended at least once in his lifetime by the CDC and more often for men who are at high risk (IV drug users, men who have sex with men). Testing remains the only way to know whether you have HIV. If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to HIV or have had unprotected sex, get tested.

Once the acute phase of HIV infection is over, there may be a long, symptom-free period where an infected person feels "normal" and remains unaware of his infection. However, the virus is still at work and causing damage to the body's immune system. Eventually, this will lead to AIDS. For more information on AIDS and AIDS symptoms, see our pages dedicated to that topic.

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