Did I Just Contract HIV? Symptoms of Primary HIV Infection
Hi, my name is [PRESENTER NAME]. I’m [PRESENTER ROLE]. Welcome to “Did I Just Contract HIV? Symptoms of Primary HIV Infection.”
Did you know that it’s sometimes possible to recognize when you’ve recently contracted HIV from signs and symptoms such as fever, rash, or swollen lymph nodes? This video will teach you how to recognize signs and symptoms of primary HIV infection that are experienced by between 40 and 90% of individuals after they are first infected with HIV. Seeking medical attention if you are experiencing primary HIV infection could save your life and the lives of any sexual partners, so please listen carefully and watch the whole video.
Primary HIV infection occurs during the first few weeks or months after a person first becomes infected with HIV.[i] Symptoms include rash and/or fevers, possibly in combination with one or more of the following symptoms: malaise (which is a general feeling of weakness, discomfort, and fatigue), loss of appetite, weight loss, a sore throat, sores in the mouth, joint or muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, fatigue, night sweats, nausea and vomiting, headache, or genital sores. [ii][iii] The symptoms usually last from seven to ten days, and rarely more than two weeks.[iv] There is an incubation period of a few days to a few weeks between when the person was exposed to HIV and when the symptoms begin.[v]
If you have one or more of these symptoms, does it necessarily mean you are infected with HIV? No. Many common diseases can cause one or more of these symptoms. For example, most people with a fever or sore throat are probably just experiencing common illnesses such as the cold, influenza, or mononucleosis. So don’t panic. But if you have any of these symptoms and think there’s even the slightest chance you might have been exposed to HIV, such as through recent sexual activity or sharing a needle, even with someone who you believe is HIV negative, you should see a doctor and ask to be tested for HIV.
If you have none of these symptoms, does it prove you’re not infected with HIV? No. Between 10 and 60% of people who contract HIV never show the symptoms of primary HIV infection. So don’t assume you’re HIV negative just because you’ve never experienced symptoms of primary HIV infection.
When you go to the doctor with any of these symptoms, it’s very important to mention any risk factors you may have for HIV so they could test you. If you have ever had unprotected sex, even once, have used injection drugs, or think you might be experiencing primary HIV infection, make sure to tell your doctor.
By getting tested promptly for HIV, you’re also doing your part to help reduce its spread. People who contract HIV are most infectious during primary HIV infection. During this time, the viral load in their blood and semen or vaginal secretions is the highest, and they are most likely to infect sexual or needle sharing partners. Newly infected individuals who learn their status promptly can notify their partners and take steps to reduce their risk of infecting others. Of course, if you are sexually active or sharing needles, you shouldn’t wait until you think you have HIV to practice safer sex or stop sharing needles.
So protect yourself and those around you. If you haven’t been tested for HIV already, do so. If you’re sexually active, practice safer sex to reduce your risk. And if you think you may have been exposed to HIV and are having signs and symptoms similar to primary HIV infection, don’t delay; go to the doctor right away and ask to be tested today for HIV. This is [PRESENTER NAME].
This script was reviewed for accuracy and approved by Becky Kuhn, M.D. on June 22, 2007.
Bernard Branson, et al. "Revised Recommendations for HIV Testing of Adults, Adolescents, and Pregnant Women in Health-Care Settings." MMWR Recommendations and Reports, 22 Sept 06, 55(RR14); 1-17.
Center for AIDS, “Primary HIV Infection,” April 2004.
Marcus Altfeld and Bruce D. Walker, “Acute HIV-1 Infection,” HIV Medicine, 14th Ed., 2006.
[i] Center for AIDS, “Primary HIV Infection,” April 2004. http://www.thebody.com/content/treat/art16795.html
[ii] Center for AIDS, “Primary HIV Infection,” April 2004. http://www.thebody.com/content/treat/art16795.html
[iii] Marcus Altfeld and Bruce D. Walker, “Acute HIV-1 Infection,” HIV Medicine, 14th Ed., 2006. http://www.hivmedicine.com/textbook/acuteinf.htm
[iv] Altfeld and Walker, 2006.
[v] Altfeld and Walker, 2006.