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swollen nodes in armpit
Jul 13, 2008

Hi Doc, about 2-3 months ago I had unprotected oral (sperm swallowed) and a brief unprotected penetration (bareback) with a guy I later learned is hiv+, although he claims he is undetectable. The problem is that about 3 weeks later I had a severe ear infection (swimmers ear) which caused (i think) the glands under my arms to swell. I was given antibiotics and the infection and glands swelling stopped. Since then though the gland swelling periodically comes back for a couple weeks then goes away. It's pretty painful when they are swollen. I read on the internet that it could be a sign of hiv so I'm very scared. my last neg test was last year so I'm due again. I'm not having any other symptoms so my question is this: how common/likely is that hiv infection could be causing the glands under my arms to swell?

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

The lymphadenopathy (lymph node swelling) associated with HIV disease is most often generalized (occurring in many locations simultaneously) and non-painful. That said, I should also mention that swimmer's ear would not cause the lymph glands under your arms to swell.

Now that we have those issues out of the way, the most important point to make is that unprotected sex places you at risk for STDs, including HIV. Even if you did not subsequently learn of your partner's positive HIV status or have any symptoms whatsoever, you would still need HIV testing! Don't be "very scared" by reading about symptoms on the internet; be concerned that you placed yourself at significant risk for acquiring the virus.

My advice is straightforward:

1. Get an HIV-antibody test (rapid test, ELISA, EIA, etc.) at the three-month mark. If negative, you'll need a follow-up test at the six-month mark per CDC guidelines, because you had a significant HIV exposure with a partner confirmed to be HIV positive.

2. Do not ever again place yourself at risk! No glove, no love, no exceptions!

Good luck.

Dr. Bob



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