Hi Rick, I was exposed to a possible risk ( sex with a prostitute, and the condom broke ). At 6 weeks I was tested ( negative ), and then again at 2 months after ( 8 1/2 weeks). The tests were p24antigen and an antibody ( plus a host of std tests), all were negative. However, at 10-11 weeks, I experienced severe diarrhoea and fever for about 5 days. I also noticed a whitish layer on my tongue, which is going away. Could one experience symptoms at 10 weeks? I understand that these primary symptoms should occur within the first couple of weeks after possible exposure.
Hi. Thank you for your question.
The following information discusses the symptoms of HIV/AIDS and testing for HIV. Pay close attention to the time points when all of these occur. By comparing all of this information, you will see that it is unlikely that your symptoms are HIV/AIDS related, but only testing at 6 months will give you a conclusive answer as to whether you are infected or not.
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 (usually within 4-6 weeks), 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 two, then go away by themselves. They do NOT persist for many weeks or months. 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, regardless of what you think the problem is. You can't assume any symptom is HIV/AIDS related until you get laboratory tests.
In regard to the accuracy of the antibody tests:
The AVERAGE period of time that an infected person will show positive on the test is 25 days. This is an average, so not all people will test positive by this point in time.
The USUAL period of time that an infected person will show positive on the test is 3 months. This means that most (but not all) infected people will show positive on the test by this time.
The MAXIMUM period of time that an infected person will show positive on the test is 6 months. By this point in time, more than 99% of infected persons will show positive on the test. This is as accurate as any test in medicine could ever be.
For the most accurate test result, you must wait 6 months after your last possible exposure to the virus (or anytime afterward). At 6 months, the tests are more than 99% accurate. If you get tested before the 6 month waiting period, you could have the infection but the test won't pick it up.
Also, if a person tests negative at the time that they are showing symptoms, that indicates that their symptoms are not AIDS related. A person first shows positive on the test (by 6 months after infection), and then later shows symptoms (an average of 10 years after infection). So if a person tests negative at the time that they're showing symptoms, that indicates that the symptoms are not AIDS related.
In regard to the p-24 antigen test, this will usually begin to show positive an average of 6 days before an antibody test will show positive. Also, once the antibody test starts showing positive, the p-24 antigen test will often revert back to a negative result. The p-24 antigen test alone CANNOT be used for the diagnosis of HIV infection. That is what the antibody tests are used for.
If you have any further questions please e-mail me at "email@example.com" or call me at 1-800-842-AIDS.