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The Theory Behind Treatment During Primary Infection

March 31, 2000

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

When to start therapy is one of the biggest questions facing a person with HIV. One option to be considered is starting therapy during primary infection. Primary infection is the period of time immediately following initial infection with the virus. It is characterized by several possible symptoms including: fever, fatigue, sore throat, weight loss, muscle aches, headache, nausea, night sweats, diarrhea, and rash. Some people get just a few of these symptoms and others will get no symptoms.

There is a theory that starting antiretroviral medications during primary infection can offer some unique benefits to the person infected with HIV. The potential long-term clinical benefits of starting medications early are:

  • Control of virus replication; reduction of viral load

  • Potential maintenance or reconstruction of a normal immune system

  • Delayed progression to AIDS and longer life

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  • Decreased risk of giving HIV to others

  • Decreased risk of selection of resistant virus

Please note, these benefits are only theoretical and the long-term clinical benefits of starting medication during primary infection have not been proven. In fact, there may be some serious risks involved in starting medications early in HIV infection including:

  • Reduction in quality of life from drug side affects

  • Earlier development of drug-resistant virus

  • Transmission of drug-resistant virus

  • Limiting future drug options due to resistance

  • Unknown long-term side effects from drugs

  • Unknown length of time current drugs will work
If you suspect a primary infection, there is help available. The University of Washington Primary Infection Clinic offers state-of-the-art testing, diagnosis, counseling, and follow up services. Services may be available even for those choosing not to start medications during primary infection. For more information or to make an appointment contact:

UW Primary Infection Clinic
206-720-4340 (Seattle)
1-800-968-1437 (WA)

You can also visit their website at: http://depts.washington.edu/hpic.


A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by Seattle Treatment Education Project. It is a part of the publication STEP Ezine.
 
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