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Managing Side Effects of HIV TreatmentManaging Side Effects of HIV Treatment
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Mono, allergies and rising CD4 count
May 28, 2013

Hi. I hope this finds you well. I've been having health problems for the last few months and wanted to ask how they might be related to HIV and if there was anything I might do about them (I have a regular HIV caregiver of course, but after these last few months I'm beginning to suspect its time to find a new doctor).

Early Feb. I came down with an odd illness--at first my doctor suspected Rubella (which is in a slight epidemic here at the moment) but blood tests later seemed to suggest Mono. While the initial symptoms (full body rash, fever, headaches) have subsided I still have a sore throat and a lot of throat and bronchial inflammation, which was beginning to affect my breathing.

I wasn't getting any treatment from my regular doctor, other than ibuprofen, so I visited a different doctor (GP, not an HIV specialist), who was worried I might be on my way to pneumonia. Her treatment has helped immensely. While there does seem to be some viral infection still going on, she also performed allergy tests (RAST) showing a rather high allergic reaction to house dust/mites. From my symptoms, and the fact that I had childhood asthma, she also suspects asthma. Pneumonia, fortunately, doesn't seem to be an issue (CRP 0.66mg/dL).

I've been on HAART for about 3 years now and recently my CD4 has improved quite a lot (it had lingered at around 350 for some time but now tends to be above 600). My question related to HIV is, whether HIV infection or my improving immune response could be related to a re-occurence of mono (I appear to have had the EB virus before) and the sudden allergies (I have never had significant problems w/ inside allergies before). Since the problem has been chronic for about 4 months now, I'm wanted to know whether problems like these might be common on HAART, and whether there any specific worries I should be aware of as HIV-pos. The GP I'm seeing seems to be a very good doctor, but because of insurance procedures it will probably be a few months before I'm able to switch my HIV doctor. I was hoping to get an HIV-specialist's opinion as well.

Thank you very much!

Response from Dr. Henry

Allergies and mononucleosis are fairly common in the general population so it can be hard to sort out a specific contribution of HIV and/or antiretroviral effects. The scenario you describe has not been a common feature of successful ART. Allergy issues are often a challenge with the role of RAST testing still unclear in many settings. Reflux esophagitis is a common cause of chronic respiratory problems so checking for that may be worth doing as well. Details such as whether you smoke, which HIV meds and other drugs you are taking, other health problems, environmental (home/work/recreational) exposure assessment and many other factors are important details to review when evaluating symptoms such as you have experienced. KH

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