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Side effects vs. acute infection
Apr 27, 2005

I had a blunt instrument exposure to a patient with AIDS (tip of scissors) 2 weeks ago and went on PEP (combivir and viracept) 1 week ago. I've been feeling flushed (and hot flashes) with a continuous mild headache and have had mild diarrhea for the past 6 days or so. I think these are common side effects but how do you distinguish these symptoms with symptoms of acute HIV infection? Also, should I have a viral load test soon since antibody testing will take several months to come up positive? Thanks.

Response from Dr. Young

Thanks for your post.

The symptoms that you've described sound like typical side effects of the medications that you're taking. The AZT part of Combivir can frequently cause headaches, and Viracept very commonly causes diarrhea.

Overall, your exposure was a very low risk one and I'd have a very low suspicion of HIV infection. If in doubt, I'd speak to your doctor about your symptoms.

Good luck, BY

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