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Are these likely Symptoms of AIDS?
Aug 28, 1996

About 2 years ago I gave unprotected oral sex to a girl I didn't know very well. At the time I believed that oral sex was much safer than any other form of sex. We also engaged in intercourse, but we used a condom. I realize that I put myself at risk, and should be tested. I am not the kind of person who frequently gets sick. However, immediately after I had sex with this girl (maybe a week) I developed acute tonsillitis and had to have my tonsills removed. I have developed a postnasal drip problem over the past 2 years (it began after my tonsillectomy) and recently my asthma has worsened. I have also had pinkeye recently, and had a mild infection of my inner ear recently. RIght now I am experiencing difficulty when breathing, malaise, and an infrequent, non-productive cough, but it may be allergy-related. The recent symptoms have occurred for about 2 or 3 days. I realize I should (and will, if only to put my fears to rest) get myself tested immediately, but I am curious to know if the symptoms I am describing are typical of AIDS. I know you can't tell me a perfect answer, but from what I have told you, how concerned should I be? By the way I am a 22 year old male.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your post. In response to your concerns:

First of all, things like tonsillitis, post-nasal drip, pink-eye, asthma, and inner-ear infections are not things directly related to AIDS. These can be due to multiple causes that don't necessarily have anything to do with AIDS or HIV infection. As you said yourself, testing is the only way to know whether you became infected or not. I'm glad you used condoms during intercourse, which reduced your risk significantly.

If you have symptoms which are not getting better, or are getting more severe, it's important to seek medical attention regardless of what you THINK the cause may be. It's definetely possible to have all of your medical problems, and NOT have the HIV virus. But again, only testing will answer that question.

As for the symptoms of HIV and AIDS:

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 so, then go away by themselves. 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. You can't assume any symptom is HIV/AIDS related until you get laboratory tests.

And as for testing for HIV, since the tests are more than 99% accurate after 6 months from a possible exposure, you should be able to get a very accurate test now, since your exposure was 2 years ago.

So in summary, an HIV antibody test now should be able to put your fears to rest as to whether you became infected from this exposure. But you should still seek medical attention to follow up on your present symptoms, whether or not you think you have HIV.

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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