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syphilis - hiv?

Jan 24, 2006

Hi Dr. Bob,

I contracted syphilis around 2 or 3 months ago and began experiencing the symptoms (chancre in throat, swollen neck glands, low-grade fever, white/yellowish patches on tongue) by the end of December. Most of the doctors just said I had a flu or some sort of "virus". After being run-down for a month and seeing doctors multiple times and going to the ER 2x in 2 months, I experienced the symptoms again in mid-January, this time with more than one chancre in my throat and the same symptoms as before, including some hearing loss and vision problems (like before). A little bit of chest pain, although I wasn't too sure whether this was due to stress or the damage being done to my body. This time around, I got sore throat and heightened mucous production.

I was tested for HIV in late December and Jan. 19 - both came back negative. I know you say that anytime before 3-6 months is inconclusive, but I am incredibly frightened because I have kept reading about the high-risk of HIV transmission among those with syphilis. Being that I had syphilis, I feel have no clue what I should expect.

When should I next get tested for HIV? When do HIV antibodies usually occur in those with syphilis? Also, does having syphilis slow the body's response in developing HIV antibodies? I cannot possibly wait another month just to figure out whether or not I'm positive - I have been scared now for months.


Coward - an avid reader

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi Avid Reader,

Having syphilis can increase your chance of acquiring HIV, because open chancre sores can provide an easy way for the virus to enter the body and also white blood cells at the site of infection may increase the chances for HIV transmission as well. That said, however, with or without syphilis, the dynamics of anti-HIV antibody production do not change. Testing for HIV should be done three months (or longer) after your last possible exposure. Having syphilis will not alter the time it takes to develop anti-HIV antibodies (window period) or the results of HIV-antibody tests.

You are not a coward. You just need to do what is necessary to treat your syphilis, evaluate your HIV status and maximize your health.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob

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