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Acute Retroviral SyndromeThe Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions
Jan 3, 1997

When a person starts suffering from Acute Retroviral Syndrome, is it usually severe or mild "flu" like symptoms? My question is do the majority suffer from severe or mild flu like symptoms?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

The following describes in detail the symptoms related to "Acute Viral Syndrome." I must stress that the severity of the symptoms vary greatly from person to person. I can't tell you whether the majority of people's symptoms are severe or mild, since they vary so much from person to person. And remember, not all people will develop symptoms related to recent HIV infection. These symptoms are believed to occur in up to 70% of infected people, and symptoms can vary significantly from person to person.

Within the first 4-6 weeks after infection, some people with HIV (up to 70%) show symptoms due to "Acute Viral Syndrome." This occurs during your bodies initial response against the virus. During this time, a person may show symptoms that look exactly like the flu (headaches, body aches, fevers, fatigue etc.). A rash is sometimes seen, primarily in the upper portion of the body. The rash may or may not itch, and can be raised. There is no such thing as an "HIV/AIDS rash," and if a rash is seen at all, it resembles rashes seen from many other skin conditions. All of the symptoms last for a week or two, then go away by themselves. They do NOT persist for many weeks or months. In some people with Acute Viral Syndrome, the symptoms can be very severe. In other people with HIV, these symptoms may be very mild. In still other people with HIV, they may not show these symptoms at all. A person may, or may not, show positive on an HIV test during this period of time. I must strongly emphasize here that ALL of the symptoms of Acute Viral Syndrome look exactly like the symptoms of other illnesses, so having flu symptoms or a rash does NOT indicate HIV infection, in of itself. It is also important to remember that not all people will get Acute Viral Syndrome, and in those that do get it, the severity can vary significantly from person to person. Because Acute Viral Syndrome looks exactly like the symptoms of many other illnesses, NOBODY can tell you whether your symptoms are due to this syndrome or not. Only HIV testing can determine if a person has HIV or not.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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