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symptoms for ten days or more
Nov 7, 1996

mr.sowadsky. first,as an avid follower of your column,i add my name to the list of people who salute you,what you do is invalueable. my question is in regards to "symptoms" which to me is the most asked and confusing topic. i have read many books on the hiv virus and every one gives a different answer. we all know that getting tested is the only true way to know if you have the virus,however,some "expertes" say that you must have a combination of symptoms (flu,diarreah,etc)for a period of two weeks before having the virus would be possible,do you agree or dis-agree.you have also stated that there is a ten year window period for hiv infection,if someone was to engage in a risky act over ten years ago and didn"t suffer anything other than normal every day illnisses are you saying that they are probably not infected? lastly,is you were infected,could you give your partner strep throat or is that something else,thanks for your time.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question and the nice complement at the start of your post.

When it comes to symptoms related to HIV/AIDS, there are no absolute rules as to when symptoms begin, what they look like, how long they last etc., etc. Symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. This wide variability is what leads to seemingly contradictory and confusing information. In reality, the symptoms related to HIV and AIDS can vary greatly from one person to another.

Regarding the statement that a person, "must have a combination of symptoms (flu,diarreah,etc)for a period of two weeks before having the virus", this isn't always true. After recent HIV infection, some people can have flu-like symptoms (within a month or so after infection, lasting for 1-2 weeks or so). However the severity of these symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. Some people who acquire HIV may have severe flu-like symptoms. 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.

However, when we're talking about the symptoms of AIDS itself (which usually don't begin until an average of 10 years after infection), the symptoms tend to be long-term (lasting for weeks or months), and they can be very severe. However, here too, the severity and range of symptoms can vary greatly from person to person.

In regard to the statement:

"if someone was to engage in a risky act over ten years ago and didn"t suffer anything other than normal every day illnisses are you saying that they are probably not infected?"

One CANNOT make this assumption. Ten years is just the AVERAGE period of time between infection and when symptoms begin. Some people take longer than 10 years before symptoms start. And remember that a person may have HIV, or even full-blown AIDS, and have no symptoms at all! So you cannot assume you don't have HIV just because you don't have symptoms 10 years later. As you stated yourself, only HIV testing can determine whether you have the virus or not.

Lastly, regarding strep throat, that infection is unrelated to AIDS and is something that any person can acquire from any other person.

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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