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HIV and Night Sweats - Understanding the Relation

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Night sweats can be a concerning symptom for individuals with HIV. Read the article to know more about it.

Written by

Dr. Saima Yunus

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Published At March 1, 2024
Reviewed AtMarch 7, 2024


Perspiration or sweating is the body's natural response as it is overheated or physically or emotionally stressed. It can be affected by a disease-causing agent like HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). In certain people, it can occur due to some underlying cause or without apparent reason, such as hyperhidrosis). In some individuals, it is seen particularly and profusely at night. It is also known as night sweats or sleep hyperhidrosis. This article explores the relationship between HIV and night sweats, their potential causes, and the importance of seeking medical attention.

What Is HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)?

HIV is a virus that primarily targets CD4 cells, a type of white blood cell crucial for the immune system's proper functioning. As the virus progresses, it weakens the immune system, making the body susceptible to opportunistic infections and certain cancers. HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, sharing of needles, and from an infected mother to child during childbirth or breastfeeding.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a viral infection that attacks the immune system, compromising its ability to fight off infections and diseases. While many people associate HIV with symptoms like fatigue, weight loss, and fever, night sweats are another manifestation that individuals living with HIV may experience. However, it is essential to understand that not everyone with HIV experiences all these symptoms. As the virus progresses to the chronic stage, symptoms may become more serious, and various complications can arise.

Night sweats often occur in individuals living with HIV, most frequently seen in the later stages of undiagnosed or untreated disease (when the CD4 count is lower than 200 cells/milliliter). It can lead to heavy, drenching perspiration for no visible reason. Night sweats are generally harmless. However, they might indicate an underlying medical condition that may be serious. Night sweats are different from normal perspiration as they are seen without exercise and almost entirely when sleeping. Further, they can be excessive, soaking the bed sheets and blankets.

While night sweats are a common occurrence in many people due to various reasons such as room temperature, excessive bedding, or hormonal fluctuations, they can also be a symptom of underlying medical conditions, including HIV.

  • Infection and Inflammation: As HIV weakens the immune system, the body becomes more susceptible to infections. Opportunistic infections, such as tuberculosis, may cause night sweats. Additionally, chronic inflammation resulting from the immune system's constant activation can contribute to this symptom.

  • Fever as a Trigger: HIV itself can cause fever, and episodes of fever, particularly at night, may trigger night sweats. Fever is a common response to infections and is the body's attempt to fight off the invading pathogens.

  • Hormonal Imbalances: HIV can disrupt the balance of hormones in the body, affecting the regulation of body temperature. Hormonal imbalances may contribute to episodes of night sweats in individuals with HIV.

  • Medication Side Effects: Antiretroviral therapy (ART), the standard treatment for HIV, can sometimes have side effects. Night sweats may be a side effect of certain medications used in the management of HIV.

When to Seek Medical Attention?

Experiencing night sweats does not automatically indicate an HIV infection, as various other conditions can lead to this symptom. However, persistent night sweats, especially when accompanied by other symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, fatigue, or fever, should prompt individuals to seek medical attention.

Healthcare professionals can conduct HIV testing and assess the overall health of individuals presenting with night sweats. Early detection of HIV is crucial for effective management and can significantly improve the prognosis for individuals living with the virus. Night sweats can be incredibly uncomfortable and daunting. If an individual wakes up in the middle of the night soaked in sweat, the individual can practice the following:

  • Take a bath or shower before going to bed and change into fresh bedclothes.

  • Change the bedding.

  • If the night sweats occur continuously, a waterproof pad to protect the mattress from being saturated should be used.

  • If weather allows, open a bedroom window to circulate air.

  • Maintain a suitable room temperature.

While individuals might make every effort to keep themselves comfortable, they must not try to "treat" their night sweats by sleeping in an extremely chilled, air-conditioned environment.

If the night sweats are serious or increasing in frequency, they can be suggestive of a life-threatening illness. Make sure to contact the healthcare provider immediately so testing and treatment can be initiated.

The presence of night sweats has no direct relation to disease progression or life expectancy in individuals with HIV. Further, night sweats might be indicative of an underlying disorder that can have poor health outcomes.

What Are the Other Possible Causes of Night Sweats?

Night sweats have various possible causes, varying from common hormonal changes in women to more serious manifestations of HIV infection. It is essential to understand that night sweats without any other symptoms are not a common manifestation of HIV. However, other possible causes of night sweats include:

  • Diabetes.

  • Menopause.

  • Hyperthyroidism.

  • Pregnancy.

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome.

  • Excessive alcohol consumption.

  • Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.

  • Some drugs like antidepressants, insulin, and oral diabetes medications.

  • Cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.

  • Tuberculosis.

  • HIV-associated infections like bacterial infection Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) and the fungal infection histoplasmosis.

Night sweats in HIV are usually accompanied by other symptoms, including

  • Fever.

  • Diarrhea.

  • Weight loss.

  • Enlarged lymph nodes.

  • Joint pain.

However, night sweats rarely occur as a lone symptom of HIV. If night sweats are experienced, consider going for an HIV test. In the United States, all individuals between 13 and 64 years old are recommended to get tested for HIV as part of a routine healthcare check-up. Rapid in-home HIV tests are now available in case any of the above symptoms are experienced.


Night sweats can be a concerning symptom for individuals, and when associated with HIV, they may signal underlying issues related to the progression of the virus. It is essential to recognize the potential connection between HIV and night sweats and to seek timely medical evaluation. Early diagnosis and appropriate management can contribute to better health outcomes for individuals living with HIV. Additionally, raising awareness about the relationship between HIV and night sweats is vital for encouraging regular testing and fostering a proactive approach to healthcare within communities at risk.

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Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha
Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Infectious Diseases


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