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Sore throat & coughing - sign of seroconversion?
Dec 11, 1996

Hi Rick 5 weeks after a relatively low risk act (receiving oral sex from a prostitute with a condom) I developed a very sore throat and a cough. The cough is not dry, ie there is a far amount of sputum. This has lasted for about a week. I have not experienced any other symptoms to date. I know the risk is pretty low but I just wanted to know if this could be a symptom of seroconversion? (This was my only risky act with any sex worker). Thank you and have a Merry Christmas from Australia. I have followed your column since its inception and I think your work is great.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question and compliments.

If you read some of my previous responses to other questions, you will note that if you were only receiving oral sex while using a condom, your risks of infection are extremely low. That would make it highly unlikely that any symptom you are having are due to Acute Viral Syndrome (symptoms associated with recent HIV infection). Having respiratory symptoms are not usually associated with recent HIV infection. I am enclosing below, once again, a description of the symptoms associated with recent HIV infection. But based on your extremely low risk, your symptoms are probably not due to HIV. Remember, nobody has ever been infected through saliva (receiving oral sex), and using a condom made your extremely low risk even lower.

Within the first few weeks after infection, some people with HIV 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.). The symptoms last for a week or two, then go away by themselves. They do NOT persist for many weeks or months. Some people who acquire HIV may have severe flu-like symptoms due to Acute Viral Syndrome. 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 antibody test during this period of time. I must strongly emphasize here that the symptoms of Acute Viral Syndrome look exactly like the symptoms of other illnesses, so having flu symptoms 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 from person to person.

People in public health have long stated that couples consider testing for HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's) before getting sexually involved. We are now seeing more couples getting tested prior to sexual involvement. Not all couples want to do this, but we are seeing this more and more. In fact, some couples are going together to a clinic, as a kind of new "ritual in dating". And I always emphasize not to limit testing for HIV. It's important to include testing for other STD's as well. But people need to remember that for HIV, it can take up to 6 months to show positive on a test. If it's been less than 6 months after any possible exposure, we still do recommend using condoms consistently and correctly, to reduce the chances of acquiring HIV and other STD's (if the couple chooses to be sexually active during this 6 month period). And just because a person tests negative for HIV, doesn't mean they don't have other STD's. They have to be tested for other STD's as well, if they are considering not using condoms during sex.

I am also a strong advocate for vaccinations, including vaccinations for both Hepatitis A & B. So if a person will potentially be at risk for either Hepatitis A or Hepatitis B, they should consider vaccinations.

Without going into details, I do take steps to reduce my risks for HIV and other STD's. And yes, I have been vaccinated for both Hepatitis A and B. Because I have also travelled overseas to several developing nations (including those in Africa and South America), I have also been vaccinated for just about everything else, ranging from Typhoid Fever, to Yellow Fever, to Cholera.

I have also been tested for HIV. I got tested in a health department, through my private doctor, and through the new home tests. I got tested each way to get a personal insight as to what it's like to get tested each way.

I do not know of any study that has looked at birth rates in conjunction with the Magic Johnson announcement. But birth rate data are available at each states Vital Statistics Office.

If you have any further questions please e-mail me at "nvhotline@aol.com" or call me at 1-800-842-AIDS.



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