At Freedomhealth we see very many hundreds of people each year with worries about possible HIV exposure and then possible early HIV symptoms. The web is a fabulous resource but can terrify the life out of people who are perhaps feeling just a little guilty because they have had a sexual encounter they would not usually have, or have had sex with another outside their usual relationship.
In the UK the prevalence of HIV is actually very low indeed with around 60,000 out of 60 million people being infected. That gives a chance of meeting someone with HIV as 1:1000. The risks of infection are very real and the illness is severe and very significant from all sorts of point of view, but looking at it in the cold light of day, the risk of HIV transmission amounts to a chance of less than 1% on any single occasion.
The symptoms of early HIV infection do not always appear. They probably appear to some degree in around 60 - 70 % of people, but very many people remain completely well. If they do appear then it is likely they will develop somewhere between 2 and 12 weeks after infection. Symptoms before this time are very rare indeed. The only sure way to diagnose HIV is with an HIV test.
That said, when symptoms do occur, they are made up of some or all of the following:-
- High fever
- Sore throat
- Chest infection or cough
- Mouth ulcers
- Large lymph glands in neck, armpits and groins
- Pains in the joints or muscles
You can see that the symptoms of HIV infection are very similar to the symptoms of any disease caused by infection such as tonsillitis, chest infection, influenza etc. All of these are much more common and it is much more likley that if you do have these that they are not early symptoms of HIV but symptoms due to something else. Anxiety itself is a powerful condition and can persuade people that they have symptoms which in fact they don't.
The important thing is to avoid putting yourself in aposition where you might have to worry about the early symptoms of HIV. In general this means using a condom for penetration - anal or vaginal. If you use a condom and it stays on and does not rip then the chances of HIV infection are almost zero.
If you don't use a condom or it breaks then it might be an idea to consider using Post Exposure Prophylaxis. This is a one month course of anti-HIV medications designed to try to interrupt new infections with HIV. It is best taken as early as possible after an unsafe episode. It is available from us, but is expensive privately, or free of charge from a GUM clinic or an Accident Dept in the UK.
Common Questions are :-
Can I catch HIV from kissing?
Can I catch HIV from sucking a penis?
Very, very unlikley. There are a few cases reported worldwide but the best studies show a minimal to zero risk. The risk will change if the guy being sucked ejaculates "cums" into your mouth, but still the risk appears small.
Can I catch HIV from being sucked?
Even less likley than sucking. I'm not aware of any case reports or any personal knowledge of that.
Can I catch HIV from licking a vagina?
Very, very unlikely. The general consensus is that if the woman is bleeding then that will increase the risk but otherwise the risk is minmal.
If you are the female in this oral episode then there is virtually no risk of acquiring HIV this way.
Can I catch HIV from touching dried or cold semen - on a sex workers sheets or in a sex club or a sex cinema?
No - not the most pleasant thing maybe but HIV is a fragile virus and requires ideal conditions to spread. Semen once dried or cold is not an HIV threat.
One thing you should remember is that other STD's are much more efficient at spreading than HIV. They will if present together, increase the risk of picking up HIV. Using condoms reduces the risk of these as well.
Testing for HIV is much easier than it used to be. At Freedomhealth we are able to test you for HIV from as early as 10 days after infection. We provide three main HIV tests and you can get information on all of these, together with the pro's and con's and prices, on our HIV Testing page. View our HIV Test and Testing page by clicking here!
Or click here to go to our Sexual Health Forum where you can post questions and answers on Sexual Issues