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HIV and AIDS

Should I Get Tested Since My Symptoms Match Those Of HIV?

06/05/2005

Question:

Hello, I am currently living in China. A couple of weeks ago I had an encounter with a sex worker.I used a condom and intercourse didn`t last long. Approximately 3 weeks later I began getting ill, I had a fever, cough, low energy and night sweats. I think I should go get tested, what would you suggest? Will the virus show up this early (it's been almost a month)? As well, I am unsure what to do since I am in China, but I will be returning to my country in the near future. Please advise.

Answer:

As you probably know, condoms are effective in reducing the chance of HIV transmission, but do not prevent transmission completely. You should be evaluated by a doctor, as the symptoms you describe could be related to any of a large number of infections. The evaluation should include an evaluation for HIV infection, and you should tell the doctor of your possible exposure. After one month, the standard antibody tests for HIV are positive in most people. If the doctor's suspicion of HIV infection is high, an HIV-PCR test can detect the virus in patients before the antibody test becomes positive. However, this test is not licensed for detection of HIV infection - it is used primarily for monitoring the clinical status of persons known to be infected. The results of an HIV-PCR test can be difficult to interpret and the test is very expensive. It may not be widely available in China. If HIV testing is delayed until you return to your home country, the standard antibody test should have a high likelihood of detecting HIV by then.

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Response by:

Peter T Frame, MD Peter T Frame, MD
Emeritus Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati