Common cold versus HIV symptoms

Published May 27 2022 inUncategorised
stopwatch3 minutes read

For most people who have contracted HIV, the symptoms experienced are often similar to the common cold or flu.  This means that diagnosis can be difficult in some cases, so the only way of knowing if you have HIV is to take an HIV test

The symptoms of many Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) can be confused with those of other illnesses, which is why it is recommended that you consider your sexual activity and habits when thinking about taking an STI test.  The only way to know for sure is to get tested, especially when you consider that many people do not even show any symptoms when infected with an STI.

If you do display any of the symptoms associated with an STI, particularly the cold and flu-like symptoms of HIV, and you are sexually active or in an at-risk group, then you certainly should have an STI and HIV test.

What is HIV?

HIV is a retrovirus that if left untreated can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, commonly known as AIDS.  This is where the immune system begins to fail and the body struggles to fight naturally against infections, leading to them becoming life-threatening.

HIV can be transmitted through contact with infected semen, pre-ejaculate, vaginal fluid, blood and breast milk.  If diagnosed early HIV treatment can be very effective.  Antiretroviral treatment means that many people living with HIV can go on to live long and fulfilling lives.

What are the symptoms of HIV compared to the common cold?

It is thought that at least 80% of the people who are newly infected with HIV suffer from a flu-like illness 2-6 weeks after the infection occurred.  The symptoms can last for up to two weeks, but in some cases may be longer.  Symptoms can include:

  • Sore throat
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle aches
  • Swollen glands

When compared to the common cold, it is easy to see why the early stages of an HIV infection can be confused with a cold or flu, which often include many of the same symptoms outlined above.

What are the long term symptoms of HIV?

When the initial symptoms of HIV go away, there may not be any signs of infection for several years. If left untreated, the virus remains active inside the body causing damage to your immune system.  Once the damage becomes too great you will start to exhibit symptoms that may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Skin problems
  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Recurrent infections
  • Serious illness

HIV testing with Better2Know

Better2Know is a world leading provider of sexual health testing services.  We offer the fastest HIV results in Australia and all our HIV tests use a blood sample for the most accurate results. All our tests are performed in certified laboratories to the highest clinical standards.

Better2Know’s 28 day HIV DUO test should be taken at least 28 days after potential exposure.  This test looks for the HIV 1 and HIV 2 antibodies as well as the p24 antigen.  Better2Know also has a range of comprehensive screens, which test for multiple STIs and HIV.

Our platinum screen tests for HIV 1 and 2 and the p24 antigen, Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Herpes I/II, Mycoplasma, Ureaplasma and Trichomonas.  The platinum screen also includes a Urine for Microscopy and Culture (UCEM) test.  This tests for Urinary Tract Infections (UTI), which are a common cause of genital discomfort and are often associated with pain that occurs during urination.

To arrange an appointment for an STI or HIV test at any of our clinics you can either speak to our knowledgeable team by calling the number at the top of this page or use the ‘book now’ button to book online.



Mike has been delivering world class Sexually Transmitted Infections testing services to Better2Know patients around the world for over ten years. He has written extensively on the subject, including numerous blogs for Better2Know which are designed to demystify the complex intricacies of sexual health testing. Mike wants to help his readers understand the risks they take in their daily sexual lives and provide the information they need when choosing an STI or STD test in a clear, concise and understandable way. Mike is particularly interested in writing about viral STIs like HIV and Hepatitis, as these infections can have a devastating impact on people’s lives if they are not diagnosed quickly. Only through being well informed can you best care for your health, and Mike is passionate about sharing his knowledge and experience to help you and all his readers lead a happier, healthier life.