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extended sore throat, dizziness- sign of hiv
Nov 11, 1996

Dear Dr. Sowadsky, About a year ago, I had unprotected sex with a woman I did not know. The penetration lasted less than a minute since I was afraid of STDs. That evening, I returned to my apartment to find small red dots appearing on the head of my penis- and they were sensitive. They disappeared a few days after that and I forgot about the incident. Unfortunately, about three weeks thereafter, big red and painful bumps began appearing on the back of my throat. I also started experiencing mild dizziness. I went to a doctor who told me that I was having an allergic reaction to something and that it would go away. It didn't. Infact, more bumps appeared and the whole episode lasted seven weeks! At that time, the pain subsided but the bumps are still clearly visible in the back of my throat. As for the dizziness, it has continued ever since, and has grown more pronounced. I have also experienced pain in the armpits. At three months after that night of sexual encounter, I took the ELISA test, and it came back negative. But I am very worried. This year alone, I have fallen ill at least five times (coughs and cold) though I never used to fall sick. Are my symptoms an indication of HIV infection? I thank you for taking the time to respond to my question.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question.

There is no way for me to tell you what could be causing your symptoms. Your symptoms can be due to numerous causes, and only your physician can tell you what is causing your symptoms. I am enclosing below a review of the symptoms associated with both recent HIV infection, and AIDS. You may want to take another HIV test at 6 months for the most accurate test result. But I cannot tell you what is causing your symptoms, other than to say that chronic (ongoing) symptoms associated with AIDS don't begin until an average of 10 years after infection.

When we're talking about symptoms, it's important to remember that there are actually 2 periods of time when one may show symptoms.

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.

In regard to the symptoms related to full blown AIDS itself, they don't usually begin until literally years after infection. Before that time, a person can look and feel totally healthy with no symptoms at all. As for the specific symptoms of AIDS, there are no specific symptoms you could list. AIDS is actually a group of diseases, and therefore you're dealing with groups of symptoms. Not everyone with AIDS has every disease and therefore not everyone has every symptom. Every symptom of AIDS looks like the symptoms of other illnesses. Symptoms can include severe weight loss, fevers, drenching night sweats, fatigue, severe diarrhea, and the list goes on and on. Generally the symptoms tend to last for weeks or months at a time, and do not go away by themselves (not without treatment). Symptoms do not begin until an average of 10 years after infection. You can have HIV and even full blown AIDS and have no symptoms at all! Generally speaking, if you have any symptoms that last for more than 2 weeks and do not go away, or if you have any symptoms that are very severe, always seek medical attention, regardless of what you think the problem is. You can't assume any symptom is HIV/AIDS related until you get laboratory tests.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide). Rick Sowadsky MSPH CDS



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