COVID-19, Influenza (Flu), and HIV: Similarities and Differences

If It's Not the Flu or COVID-19, Could It Be HIV?

COVID-19, flu and HIV may have similar symptoms such as fever, chills, night sweats, muscle aches, or fatigue. The flu-like symptoms of acute HIV begin within a few weeks of HIV exposure and then eventually go away.  Find a testing site near you by calling 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636) or visiting


Flu and COVID-19 can cause respiratory disease, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. Both viruses are  easily transmitted by respiratory  droplets and as a result, the same public health measures, such as wearing a mask, coughing into your elbow or into a tissue and immediately disposing of the tissue, are important actions that can prevent infection.


Symptoms of COVID-19 usually occur within two weeks of exposure to the coronavirus. Fever, chills, coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath, muscle aches, congestion, loss of taste and/or smell are some of the symptoms associated with COVID-19. However, some people may be infected and exhibit no symptoms at all!  Testing is the only way to know whether you have COVID-19.


Early HIV symptoms can feel like a bad case of the flu or COVID-19 and usually occur a few weeks after infection. In many people, early HIV signs and symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, swollen lymph glands, rash, sore joints or muscles, or a sore throat.  These symptoms of acute HIV are the body's natural response to HIV infection.  Symptoms usually disappear within one to four weeks; therefore, they are often mistaken for a case of the flu. 

If you might have been exposed to HIV, talk to your doctor about your testing options and whether you should be tested more frequently.