How is early symptomatic HIV infection characterized?

Updated: Jan 02, 2019
  • Author: Robert J Carpenter, DO, AAHIVS, FACP; Chief Editor: John Bartlett, MD  more...
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Answer

Answer

Early symptomatic HIV infection includes persistent generalized lymphadenopathy, often the earliest symptom of primary HIV infection; oral lesions such as thrush and oral hairy leukoplakia; hematologic disturbances such as hypoproliferative anemia and thrombocytopenia; neurologic disorders such as aseptic meningitis; and dermatologic disorders such as varicella-zoster virus (shingles).

The clinical effects of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection are diverse, ranging from an acute retroviral syndrome associated with primary HIV infection to a prolonged asymptomatic state to advanced HIV disease. Experts regard HIV disease as beginning at the time of primary (acute) HIV infection and progressing through numerous stages of chronic infection.

Acute HIV infection is defined as the period between exposure to the virus and completion of the initial immune responses. This period varies but generally lasts 2-3 months. During this time, antibody tests may be negative for HIV, but the serum viral load (the amount of HIV virus in the blood) is detectable and can be quite high (millions of copies per milliliter).


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