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How soon do hiv symptoms appear?
Jun 28, 1996

I have read conflicting information on hiv symptoms. Do most people show the severe flu type symptoms (high fever, cold night sweats) after the initial infection? And how soon do they appear after initial infection? It seems that I have also heard the most people show no symptoms at all after infection, so which is the truth? Or is it about a 50/50 chance the symptoms will appear?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

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.

If you have further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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