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Oct 23, 1996

I just tested Negative for HIV, 10 weeks after a possible exposure to the virus, through vaginal intercourse. For at least the past 6 weeks have been experiencing what my docotor calls "Lymphodenopathy", neck pains and fatigue. I understand that these are direct symptoms of Hiv infection. My doctor told me that since I tested negative at 10 weeks that HIV was not the cause. The doctor explained that I would test HIV positive during the time that I was having these symptoms, this far out post-possible exposure and that a vast majority of people convert before 10 weeks. 1). Is that true? 2). If I were HIV infected, would these symptoms last this long? 3). If not Hiv, then possibly what?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. 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.

If you are having lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph glands) and fatigue ongoing for 6 weeks, this is not consistant with Acute Viral Syndrome. Remember that symptoms related to recent HIV infection do NOT persist for many weeks or months. I cannot tell you what is causing these symptoms. All I can tell you is that it is not consistant with Acute Viral Syndrome.

It can take up to 6 months to show positive on an HIV antibody test. At 6 months, more than 99% of infected people will show positive on an antibody test. Most people will show positive on the test by 3 months, but not all. With the exception of Acute Viral Syndrome discussed above, if a person has symptoms at the time that they are testing negative on the test, it would indicate that your symptoms are not HIV/AIDS related. As far as the symptoms of AIDS itself are concerned, they don't begin until an average of 10 years after infection. So first a person tests positive on the test (by 6 months in more than 99% of infected people), and then later on show symptoms of the disease (at an average of 10 years after infection).

If you did have unprotected vaginal sex with a person who may be infected with HIV, I still recommend testing at 6 months for the most accurate test. But as far as what you have told me, there is no evidence that your symptoms are HIV related. There is no way I can tell you what is causing your symptoms, since there are many, many illnesses that can lead to your symptoms. Only your physician can determine what's causing your symptoms (usually by doing various laboratory tests). If your symptoms persist, or get worse, please see your physician again. But at this time, there is no reason to believe your symptoms are HIV related. 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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