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CBC test - Warning flag for HIV?
Sep 16, 1996

Mr. Sowadsky, Hi. I have a 3-part question:

I am curious, would a abnormal CBC test result (red & white blood cell count, functional platelets, and lymphs) serve as a warning flag for possible HIV infection? In regards to "symptoms" of HIV infection, when you speak of fatigue, do you mean overwhelming fatigue (debilitating) or general fatigue? And, would swelling of lymph glands be generalized or localized? I know you have stated that unprotected oral sex is much less riskier than other sexual acts, but even if the receptive partner is HIV+, are you saying that as long as there is no "visible blood" that this is considered safe? What about sores (canker, cold) or tiny cuts in the mouth? Thanks, Rick

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. I'll answer your concerns one question at a time:

"1) I am curious, would a abnormal CBC test result (red & white blood cell count, functional platelets, and lymphs) serve as a warning flag for possible HIV infection?"

A CBC (Complete Blood Count) is a very general series of tests that looks at a persons overall health. Having an abnormal CBC is not indicative of HIV infection in of itself. A person can have HIV and have a totally normal CBC. The CBC can indicate a lot of health care problems, but it cannot indicate HIV infection by itself.

"2) In regards to "symptoms" of HIV infection, when you speak of fatigue, do you mean overwhelming fatigue (debilitating) or general fatigue? And, would swelling of lymph glands be generalized or localized?"

The fatigue associated with HIV/AIDS can be very mild or very severe. It can vary greatly from person to person. Often, as the disease progresses, the fatigue may become more severe. As far as swollen lymph glands are concerned, they can be swollen in just one part of the body, but can often be swollen in multiple parts of the body (neck, groin, armpits etc). This can also vary from person to person.

" I know you have stated that unprotected oral sex is much less riskier than other sexual acts, but even if the receptive partner is HIV+, are you saying that as long as there is no "visible blood" that this is considered safe? What about sores (canker, cold) or tiny cuts in the mouth?"

During oral sex, in order for you to become infected with HIV, you must be exposed to pre-cum, semen, vaginal secretions, or menstrual blood. If you are not exposed to these body fluids, you will not become infected. When you receive oral sex, you are normally only being exposed to saliva, which by itself, has never led to transmission of HIV. If however the saliva had visible blood in it, then it would pose a significant risk of infection. But if you are only exposed to saliva (without any blood in it), even if you were to have open sores, you would not be at risk of infection with HIV.

If you are GIVING someone oral sex, there is a risk of infection since pre-cum, semen, vaginal secretions, and menstrual blood can get into your mouth. The more of these body fluids you are exposed to, the greater the risk of infection there would be. If you have any open sores (like canker sores or cold sores), cuts, abrasions, or gum disease in the mouth, the virus can get into your bloodstream. The risk is less than vaginal or anal intercourse, but the risk is real, and transmission can occur. There have already been reported cases of HIV infection specifically through giving oral sex. In addition to HIV, while giving oral sex, you could also be at risk for other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's) including herpes and gonorrhea.

If you are RECEIVING oral sex from someone else, you are only being exposed to saliva, and nobody has ever been infected from saliva. Nobody has ever been infected from kissing either! Keep in mind however that you can get other sexually transmitted diseases (like herpes) by receiving oral sex. However, as far as HIV is concerned, receiving oral sex is extremely low risk.

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



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