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Is there any specific symptoms?
May 19, 2003

Hi there.

Just asking whether there is any specific symptoms in certain periods of time. When do these symptoms appear and usual at which stage? When will a person die of HIV/AIDS? After one yr, what symptoms should appear? If they don't appear does it mean that one doesnt have HIV?

Response from Mr. Kull

Questions like yours always make me a little nervous, because I'm wondering if people are going to attempt to diagnose themselves based on symptoms that they are or are not experiencing. Even beginning to think like that can make one imagine symptoms when in fact there are none to be concerned about.

That being said, if you are experiencing any symptoms that are persistent, severe, or are simply causing you some anxiety, see a doctor. Do not attempt to diagnose yourself.

People can experience symptoms during different times during HIV infection. The first stage, called primary HIV infection/acute retroviral syndrome (ARS), is the period from infection through seroconversion; 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 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.

People generally enter an asymptomatic phase of HIV disease after seroconversion. The length of this period is variable depending on the person's immune response. On average, it takes about 10 years for a person to develop AIDS-related illnesses (opportunistic infections and cancers). There are numerous OIs and cancers that a person can experience that are too complicated to answer in this response. Untreated, HIV infection is fatal for the vast majority of people. Only 5% of HIV infected people, identified as long-term nonprogressors, remain HIV infected but do not develop AIDS-related illness for an indefinite period of time.

The bottom line is that if you think you are at risk for infection, there is a simple way to determine your status: an HIV antibody test 3 or more months after your exposure. If your test is negative, you're negative, and your symptoms are related to something else. If you have had a recent high risk exposure and are experiencing symptoms within the window period, see your doctor.

One should not attempt to determine their status based on symptoms alone (or the absence of symptoms one year after infection). Please get tested to determine your status.

RMK



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