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Dormant virus (NATURAL HISTORY)
Feb 10, 2007

Dr. Frascino, I am a HIV health educater and feel I pretty much have a handle on HIV and how it works. One thing that disturbs me is that I constantly hear about how a person can be HIV positive but it can lay dormant for a year before it can be detected. In other words these people claim that it could be months after exposure and the virus not be detected. Now I know the window period and I know how the test works. The alarming thing is I had a COLLEGE student tell me that this is what he heard in a college health course from the teacher. Please tell me I'm not missing something here. I'm thinking they are getting it mixed up with time of exposure to when one might actually start getting sick but they are talking about the virus not being detectable up to a whole year! Again, help me out here.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

No, you are not missing something. The natural history of untreated HIV infection is as follows: Viral transmission followed 2-3 weeks later by acute retroviral syndrome, which can last 2-3 weeks, followed by recovery and seroconversion over the next 2-4 weeks. This is then followed by an asymptomatic period of chronic HIV infection that can last, on average, 8-9 years. Following this, patients usually develop symptomatic HIV infection/AIDS. And, if left untreated, will succumb to their infection within 1-2 years thereafter.

I don't know whether the college health course was dispensing incorrect information or if the particular college student you talked to misinterpreted what he was told. (Did he happen to flunk the course???) At any rate, you can set the record straight now.

Dr. Bob



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