Late symptoms of HIV and AIDS can include extreme fatigue, rapid weight loss, impaired memory, and infections.

Without treatment, HIV can progress to advanced stages of the disease and AIDS. Opportunistic infections in these stages can cause severe symptoms.

This article looks at the stages and symptoms of HIV, treatment, and outlook.

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Symptoms of AIDS may include the following:

Without treatment, HIV progresses and worsens over three stages. Although there is currently no cure for HIV, medications can help prevent HIV from progressing.

Acute HIV infection

Stage one is acute HIV infection. This occurs when people have the initial exposure to HIV infection. Symptoms may develop 2–4 weeks after exposure.

The virus quickly spreads throughout the body and destroys CD4 T cells, which are white blood cells that form part of the immune system and help fight off infections.

In the acute stage, HIV can pass on easily to others due to high virus levels in the bloodstream.

Chronic HIV infection

Stage two is chronic HIV infection. People may also refer to this as clinical latency or asymptomatic HIV infection.

During this stage, the HIV virus continues to grow and multiply, but at much lower levels. Treatment can help prevent transmitting the virus to others.

People may not experience any symptoms at this stage. Without treatment, people may remain in this stage for 10 years or more before HIV progresses to AIDS.


AIDS is the final stage of HIV. People may have severe symptoms due to opportunistic infections.

Opportunistic infections are infections that are more frequent and severe in people with weakened immune systems.

A doctor-confirmed AIDS diagnosis takes place when people have a CD4 cell count of less than 200 cells per cubic millimeter (mm3), or when certain opportunistic infections are present.

Although they cannot cure HIV, doctors can reverse AIDS back to stage 2 HIV with antiretroviral therapy (ART), a medication that increases the CD4 cell count.

Stages of HIVSymptoms
Stage 1: Acute HIV infectionflu-like symptoms, headache, sore throat, fatigue, fever, rash, mouth ulcers, chills, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes
Stage 2: Chronic HIV infectionmay not experience any symptoms at this stage
Stage 3: AIDSfevers, rapid weight loss, extreme fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, patches of skin discoloration, sores, memory loss, pneumonia

Learn more about the timeline for HIV and AIDS symptoms.

Opportunistic infections are infections that affect people with weakened immune systems more frequently and severely than those without a compromised immune system.

Opportunistic infections and conditions that may affect people with AIDS include:

Treatment for any stage of HIV is antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART is a combination of HIV medications that people will need to take each day.

ART reduces the risk of passing HIV to others and reduces the viral load, which is the amount of the virus in a blood sample.

ART can reduce HIV to an undetectable viral load. This means laboratory testing is unable to detect the virus in a person’s blood, and there is no risk of passing on HIV through sex.

Without treatment, people with AIDS may live on average around 3 years.

People with AIDS also have a high viral load, which means it is very easy to pass HIV to others.

Beginning HIV treatment in the later stages of the disease can mean there is more time for damage to occur to the immune system, which may lead to a less favorable outcome and shorter life expectancy.

Starting HIV treatment as soon as possible and taking it as a doctor prescribes increases the likelihood that people with HIV can live long, healthy lives.

If people experience any signs of HIV, at any stage, they need to contact a doctor.

Getting a diagnosis and beginning treatment as soon as possible is important in helping them stay healthy, preventing HIV from progressing, or preventing passing the virus to others.

People living with HIV may find the following resources helpful:

This section answers some frequently asked questions about late-stage symptoms of HIV and AIDS.

What are the last stages of AIDS before death?

In the last stages of AIDS, people may have severe symptoms due to opportunistic infections, which can affect multiple systems within the body. In the final stages of AIDS, people may experience:

  • extreme fatigue
  • pain
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • severe weight loss
  • HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND), such as impaired memory and concentration, nerve damage, and dementia

Can Stage 4 AIDS be treated?

Treatment and outlook for a person diagnosed with late-stage AIDS may depend on the types and severity of opportunistic infections present.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ART helps reduce inflammation that occurs with chronic HIV infection. The chronic infection can lead to other severe diseases.

Antimicrobial treatments are also an important part of treatment for advanced stages of HIV. These treatments may help prevent or treat common opportunistic infections that can occur with AIDS.

Late symptoms of HIV and AIDS can include severe weight loss, fever, extreme fatigue, or impaired memory, and opportunistic infections that can affect multiple systems in the body.

Treatment with ART can help prevent HIV progressing and can increase the chances that people live longer, healthier lives.