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Is this an early warning of HIV?
Oct 21, 1996

Hi, about 11 days after I had casual sex -the condom broke-, I got one of the worst flus that I ever had... chills followed by high fever, severe muscle aches, etc. The flu symptoms lasted about 3 days and then subsided. I heard that people infected with HIV experience symptoms similar to mine. Is this true? Am I being paranoid or is this a warning sign that I have HIV?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

What you are describing is called "Acute Viral Syndrome". 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 so, then go away by themselves. They do NOT persist for 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 your specific instance, it's impossible to determine whether your symptoms were due to recent HIV infection or not. Remember the symptoms associated with acute viral syndrome are identical to that of the flu, and other viral infections. The only way to truely know whether you became infected with HIV or not, is through laboratory testing 6 months after your possible exposure to the virus. So you cannot at this time assume your flu symptoms were due to HIV infection. Only lab testing will tell you whether you have HIV infection or not. 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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