In 80-90% of cases, Acute HIV infection; also known as Primary HIV infection, occurs about 2-4 weeks after a person has contracted the human immunodeficiency virus. As we all should know by now, HIV is transmitted primarily through intimate sexual contact, intravenous drug use with contaminated needles or syringes, infected mothers to unborn fetuses, and in rare instances; through breastfeeding. Prior to 1985, infected blood from transfusions was also a cause.
When a person initially becomes infected with the virus, it replicates itself rapidly. During this phase, he or she becomes highly contagious. Symptoms are similar in nature to the flu or mononucleosis with fever, headaches, swollen lymph glands, a sore throat, muscular aches, lethargy, and on occasion, a rash that can move to different locations. This will last anywhere from about a week to a month, and then subside. Following this acute stage, one may not experience further symptoms for 10-12 years or more.
Because of this, Acute or Primary HIV infection is next to impossible to diagnose as the symptoms occur. For starters, a person is far more likely to be suffering from a simple case of the flu; regardless of lifestyle. Despite what the media would like us to believe, HIV is tough to contract. For example, the odds of becoming infected through a single sexual encounter with a known carrier; even with no condom use, are about 1 in 500. Slip on the protection, and this is reduced to 1 in 5000. Furthermore, if you are of the heterosexual male persuasion, your fears could very well be unfounded; for it has been suggested by some experts in the field that men rarely if ever become infected from women.
Secondly, the antibodies that would be indicative of a positive infection typically won’t show up in a blood test for at least 90 days following exposure. In a few isolated cases, it can take up to a year. And by that time, no matter how you slice it, the initial symptoms will have disappeared, so if you are indeed found to be HIV positive, your initial introduction to the virus has already come and gone. Essentially, what this boils down to is this: If you think you may have been infected with HIV, you will have to wait about three months from the time or event of possible exposure before a blood test will likely be accurate.
Only then will a doctor be able to confirm that those flu-like symptoms you experienced a couple of months back signaled the beginnings of HIV. One must also note that since 80-90% of infected individuals have these indicators within 2-4 weeks of exposure, this also means that 10-20% will not. In other words, 1 out of every 5 to 10 people infected with HIV may not have symptoms for many years.
The vast majority of those who are HIV-positive will go on to develop full-blown AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, as time progresses and the immune system gradually loses its ability to fight off opportunistic infections. However, for reasons that are unclear, a select few exposed to the virus have thus far remained free of AIDS, which was virtually unheard of before the early 1980’s.
If you happen to be diagnosed with HIV infection despite the odds being in favor against it, your doctor will suggest a treatment regimen immediately. This is essential to retard the progression to AIDS; thus improving the quality and length of life.