• Guillain-Barré syndrome is a sudden onset and rapidly progressive paralysis
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome is caused by the body's own immune system
  • It is often preceded by an infection
  • HIV can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome




Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a sudden onset disease. People can be paralyzed from one moment to the next. The severity of the disease differs between patients. It occurs annually in about 200 to 300 people. The muscles lose their strength in a few days.


GBS often starts with muscle weakness (loss of muscle strength) in the legs. In addition, other complaints often occur, such as pain in the back, pain in the legs or sensory disorders such as tingling, a feeling of sleep or no feeling in the arms or legs.
The muscle weakness slowly gets worse, sometimes even the respiratory muscles can (partially) stop working. Respiratory support is then required. Symptoms are usually at their worst after 4 weeks. Thereafter, spontaneous improvement takes place slowly. Recovery can take months to years.


In GBS, the nerves are attacked by the body's own defenses. The body makes antibodies against a common infection, such as a cold. These antibodies inadvertently attack the nerves, causing paralysis. It is not known why this happens. GBS is not hereditary.

Risk group

Anyone can get GBS. If you've had GBS once, you have a higher risk of getting it again.

Hiv and GBS

HIV is an infection and can therefore cause GBS, like other infections such as the common cold. GBS can occur both at the beginning and at a later stage of an HIV infection. That is why it is important to also test for HIV if you have Guillain-Barré syndrome.
HIV indicator conditions are conditions or symptoms that occur more often in people with an underlying HIV infection than in people without an HIV infection. Guillain-Barré syndrome is one of the HIV indicator conditions. If you have or have had Guillain-Barré syndrome​​​​​​​ and have not been tested for HIV, it is advisable to ask your doctor or general practitioner for an HIV test. Find it difficult to ask for an HIV test? You may download a call card that will help you formulate your question.