Symptoms of HIV/AIDS in Women

Warning Signs From Abnormal Pap Smears to Pelvic Infections

Close up of pen on Virology form ordering HIV/AIDS tests

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The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) weakens a person’s immune system by destroying the cells that fight disease and infection. The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), by extension, is a condition that can develop when HIV has caused serious damage to your immune system. While it's possible that a woman infected with HIV might display no symptoms, it's more typical that women infected with HIV will experience some subtle signs and symptoms that they may not realize are actually warning signs of the virus.

HIV/AIDS Symptoms Specific to Women

A woman with HIV/AIDS may have opportunistic infections different from men. These include:

  • Frequent or severe vaginal infections
  • Abnormal Pap smears
  • Pelvic infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) that are difficult to treat

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider to get tested.

Other Symptoms of HIV

Other signs and symptoms of HIV infection include:

Frequently, women exposed to HIV also experience flu-like symptoms within a couple of weeks of becoming infected. In other cases, there are no symptoms for many years.

As the infection progresses, it is not uncommon to experience symptoms such as:

  • Swollen lymph glands in the neck, underarm area, or groin
  • Frequent fevers that lead to night sweats
  • Rapid weight loss without dieting
  • Constant fatigue
  • Decreased appetite and diarrhea
  • White spots or abnormal blemishes in the mouth

Of course, all of these symptoms can also be indicators of other conditions. This is why it is so crucial that you schedule regular Pap smears and get regularly tested for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

How Can I Ensure I Get a Diagnosis Sooner Rather Than Later?

All you need to determine whether or not you are infected is a simple blood test. This test checks for the presence of antibodies produced by the body in an attempt to fight HIV.

If you believe you have been exposed to HIV, contact your healthcare provider immediately and schedule an appointment to get tested. In addition to your own healthcare provider, your local health department, STD clinic, or family planning clinic can help you get tested. To find a testing clinic in your area, visit the CDC's National HIV Testing Resources site.

While the average length of time from exposure to the presence of detectable HIV antibodies is 20 days, it can sometimes take as long as six to 12 months before antibodies are present. Because of this, your healthcare provider may recommend testing at one month, three months, six months, and one year after the initial exposure.

More About HIV In Women

Am I At Risk of Getting HIV? Learn more about the four conditions that must be satisfied in order for an HIV infection to take place.

Do I Have an HIV Infection? The only way you can ever truly know if you have HIV is to get tested. But at the same time, knowing the signs of an HIV infection may encourage you to take to action, which is always a good thing.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Office on Women's Health. HIV and women's health.

  2. Office on Women's Health. HIV and AIDS basics.

  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How can you tell if you have HIV?

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Testing.

By Tracee Cornforth
Tracee Cornforth is a freelance writer who covers menstruation, menstrual disorders, and other women's health issues.