acute HIV infection, acute retroviral syndrome

Question

Hi there doctor,Just afew questions I'd like to ask,How common does acute HIV infection or acute retroviral syndrome occur when people are first infected with hiv?Also after possable infection,after what period of time can we rule out symptoms like this to be hiv related? Do the chances dercease significnitly of a positive test if one does not show these symtoms?Finally you mention that these symptoms mimic the flu or mono,as I am not familier with the differences between these illness and the common cold could you please discribe the symtoms of ars briefly in small detail?It has been forty days after my possable exposer and am worried about a small soar throat,I'd appreciate your help.Thankyou kindly,What you people do here is amazing keep up the good work.

Answer

Before I say anything about your question, please remember that any symptoms that you experience that cause you concern should be checked out with your doctor.

At least 80% of people recently infected with HIV will experience symptoms related to acute HIV infection approximately 2-4 weeks after exposure. Symptoms can vary in each individual, the most common symptoms being fever, headache, fatigue, rash, lymphadenopathy, myalgia/arthralgia, sore throat, mouth ulcers, and in rare cases, people can develop opportunistic infections, such as PCP. Symptoms usually last up to two weeks, and possibly longer.

It is quite tempting to gauge your risk for infection based on symptoms that you have or do not have after an exposure. For some people, doing this can be unavoidable (especially people who suffer from an anxiety disorder). For others, avoiding this guessing game can save them from a great deal of anxiety.

Recent HIV infection (acute HIV infection, acute retroviral syndrome) should only be considered if ALL of the following are true:

  1. You had unprotected vaginal or anal sex (inserting or receiving a penis without a condom) within the past three months.

  2. Your partner was known to be HIV infected, or is a person who is in a "high-risk" category (a man who has sex with men, an injection drug user, or a person who has sexual contact with others in an area of high HIV incidence or prevalence, like sub-Saharan Africa).

  3. Your symptoms are indicative of acute HIV infection (febrile illness, sometimes compared to flu or mono). The specific symptoms can vary from person to person, but acute infection most often manifests in this "flu-like" manner.

First, determine your risk for infection. If it is significant, then, and only then, should symptoms be evaluated for acute HIV infection.

RMK