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Not your usual "symptoms question" (NATURAL HISTORY OF HIV, 2009)

Mar 16, 2009

I will proudly donate for a simple answer. I'm studying more about HIV since my friend got recently diagnosed. I'm confused about one topic...symptoms.

Am I understanding this correctly.. First someone would get ARS (Which is 2-4 weeks after infection lasting 2-4 weeks, or so) Then this person will not get symptoms for about 8-10 years.

So basically the only symptoms are the ARS and the symptoms years later? Not really in between? People will usually feel healthy after they get ARS? I also understand some people will not even get ARS. I understand that people don't know if they are infected because symptoms dont usually occur shortly after ARS.

Donation to follow, you've helped me more than you'll even know. Thanks again!

Response from Dr. Frascino


HIV disease can vary considerably from individual to individual. I can (and will) describe for you HIV's natural history, but remember not every case fits neatly into this schematic.

1. Primary HIV infection is the first stage of HIV. HIV is transmitted and within two to three weeks symptoms of acute retroviral syndrome (ARS) appear. During ARS HIV-antibody tests may be negative, but the HIV plasma viral load is usually sky high making this a particularly dangerous time for HIV transmission to others.

2. Asymptomatic HIV Infection. ARS resolves spontaneously over several weeks and this is followed by a long period during which people generally feel quite well. Some symptoms, including generalized swollen lymph nodes, may be present during this period. Also common medical conditions, such as vaginal yeast infections, herpes and/or shingles, may occur more frequently or with greater severity during this period.

3. Symptomatic HIV Infection. This stage used to be called AIDS-related complex or ARC. Symptoms of weight loss, oral thrush, fatigue, diarrhea and night sweats are common.

4. AIDS. When the CD4 count falls below 200 (whether or not symptoms are present) or when an AIDS-indicator condition occurs (opportunistic infection or malignancy), the diagnosis of AIDS is made. The term full-blown AIDS is not relevant because there is no such thing as "partially-blown AIDS".

5. Advanced-Stage AIDS. When the CD4 count falls below 50 we refer to the condition as advanced-stage AIDS because of the severity of the immunodeficiency. It's important to note that HIV/AIDS is treatable at any stage!

Thanks for your donation to the Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation (

Be well. Stay well.

Dr. Bob

HIV Window Period

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