According to the Mayo Clinic, the majority of people infected with the HIV virus experience flu-like symptoms within a month or two after the virus enters the body. This early stage of the illness is known as primary or acute HIV infection. The symptoms may include fever, chills, sore throat and joint and muscle aches. In some individuals, however, these early symptoms are very mild or aren't present at all.
After the initial symptoms, the HIV infection enters a latency stage that even without treatment may last 10 years or longer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During this period, most individuals are asymptomatic, and the viral count is lower than during the primary or acute phase. But eventually, if untreated, the HIV infection weakens the body's immune system to the point that the illness moves to its final and most deadly phase known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. During this stage, the body often succumbs to opportunistic infections that a person with a healthy immune system is able to fight off. In the past two decades, the development of antiretroviral treatments have helped individuals infected with the HIV virus keep their viral counts low or undetectable and remain asymptomatic for longer periods. The goal of such treatment, according to the National Institutes of Health, is to suppress viral reproduction and thus keep the patient symptom-free.