Tuesday, May 28, 2013

HIV Infection

Early HIV infection can cause a range of symptoms, which can be very similar to the flu or other common viral illnesses. These symptoms are sometimes called reconversion illness, or acute retro-viral syndrome. As many as 90% of those diagnosed with HIV will have experienced one or more of the following symptoms, usually within the first four weeks of initial exposure to the virus: fever, rash, headache, feeling generally unwell, aches and pains, mouth ulcers, sore throat, night sweats, weight loss, tiredness, swollen glands, and neurological symptoms like meningitis.

Symptoms typically appear a few days to a few weeks after exposure to HIV and can persists for two to four weeks, although swollen glands may last longer. After infection with HIV, it may be months before the body generates immune cells that can recognise HIV-infected cells or produces antibodies against HIV. The time at which antibodies to HIV appear is called reconversion. Before this time, an HIV antibody test will give a negative result.

In the UK, most sexual health clinics will use a kit which combines both tests, in order to ensure an accurate result. These are sometimes known as fourth-generation tests. If you are concerned that you may have recently been at risk of HIV infection, talk to a health professional about HIV testing. If the risk was in the last 72 hours, you and your doctor should also discuss whether a short-course of preventive HIV treatment called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is appropriate for your situation.

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