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Un known HIV status and Varicella Vaccine
May 27, 2011

I may have been exposed to HIV 8-10 years ago. I recently received a Varicella vaccine after learning I was not immune. If I have no reaction (none whatsoever) is it possible that I do not have HIV since after 8 years my immune system should be very compromised right? If I am HIV positive what kind of reaction can I expect? Can this vaccination kill me? I have NEVER had any symptoms associated with HIV ever. After 8 years of no treatment how likely is it that I would have no symptoms?

Response from Dr. Young

Hi and thanks for your post.

I think that you're putting the cart before the horse. I'd be worried less about the remote risk of vaccine safety issues with the fact that you haven't been HIV tested in many years.

The vaccine is likely safe to administer to positives, particularly those with healthier immune systems-- but that has not been formally evaluated yet, so vaccination isn't currently recommended.

While most persons who are HIV+ develop some symptoms after a few years, some don't. You can't use the presence or absence of symptoms to determine your HIV status.

So, in my opinion, your risk from vaccine is small (ie., it won't kill you). Not knowing your HIV status is risky and puts your (and others') health at risk. Testing can be done confidentially, and if your positive, provide centers can provide support and linkage to care. If you're negative, there are many strategies to keep you that way and healthy.

Be well, BY



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