Feb 12, 2003
Dear Dr Ryan, I have two question to address: 1. What is the usual time period for the appearance of an acute retroviral infection post-contact? 2. Does it always appear in the case of HIV infection? Thank you for your concern.
Response from Mr. Kull
Acute HIV infection is the period of time when an HIV infected person is seroconverting; that is, they are mounting an immune response against HIV, developing antibodies that will signify that he or she is HIV antibody positive. At least 80% of people (most, but not all) recently infected with HIV will experience symptoms related to acute HIV infection approximately 2-4 weeks after exposure. Symptoms can vary in each individual, the most common symptoms being fever, headache, fatigue, rash, lymphadenopathy, myalgia/arthralgia, sore throat, mouth ulcers, and in rare cases, people can develop opportunistic infections, such as PCP. Symptoms usually last up to two weeks, and possibly longer.
Don't use this information to diagnose yourself. Trying to determine your HIV status based on symptoms you are experiencing is unwise, anxiety provoking, and unreliable. Recent HIV infection (acute HIV infection, acute retroviral syndrome) should only be considered if ALL of the following are true:
1) You had unprotected vaginal or anal sex (inserting or receiving a penis without a condom) within the past three months.
2) Your partner was known to be HIV infected, or is a person who is in a "high-risk" category (a man who has sex with men, an injection drug user, or a person who has sexual contact with others in an area of high HIV incidence or prevalence, like sub-Saharan Africa).
3) Your symptoms are indicative of acute HIV infection (febrile illness, sometimes compared to flu or mono). The specific symptoms can vary from person to person, but acute infection most often manifests in this "flu-like" manner.
If all of the above are true for you, see a doctor to have your symptoms evaluated. If all of the above are not true, you should still have your symptoms evaluated by a doctor, but it is not likely that they are related to HIV infection.
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