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HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) Infection - When To Call a Doctor

Known HIV infection

If you are infected with HIV or caring for someone who is, call 911 or other emergency services immediately if any of the following conditions develop:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • New weakness in an arm, a leg, or one side of the body
  • New inability to move a body part (paralysis)
  • New inability to stand or walk

Call your doctor if any of the following conditions develop:

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  • Fever higher than 101°F (38.3°C) for 24 hours or a fever higher than 103°F (39.4°C)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough that produces mucus (sputum)
  • New changes in balance or sensation (numbness, tingling, or pain)
  • Ongoing diarrhea
  • Unusual bleeding, such as from the nose or gums, blood in the urine or stool, or easy bruising
  • Ongoing headache or changes in vision
  • Rapid, unexplained weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin
  • Unusual sores, rashes, or bumps on the skin or around the genitals, anus, or mouth, or increased outbreaks of cold sores
  • Personality changes or a decline in mental ability, such as confusion, disorientation, or an inability to do mental tasks that the person has done in the past

Suspected or known exposure to HIV and symptoms are present

Call your doctor to find out whether HIV testing is needed if you suspect you have been exposed to HIV, particularly if you engage in high-risk behavior and have any of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal cramps, nausea, or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and joint pain
  • Skin rash
  • Sore throat
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Yeast infection of the mouth (thrush)

Suspected or known exposure to HIV but no symptoms

If you have not been tested for HIV, call your doctor if:

  • You suspect that you have been exposed to HIV.
  • You have engaged in high-risk behavior and are concerned that you were exposed to HIV.
  • Your sex partner engages in high-risk behavior.
  • Your sex partner may have been exposed to HIV.
  • Your sex partner has HIV.
  • You have any of the symptoms listed above.

Getting tested for HIV can be scary, but the condition can be managed with treatment. So it is important to get tested if you think you have been exposed.

Watchful waiting

If you don't have symptoms of HIV even though you have tested positive for the virus, you and your doctor may simply keep watching for symptoms to occur.

If you don't show any signs of disease and your CD4+ cell count is more than 500 cells per microliter (mcL), you may not need treatment. But during this time you still need regular checkups with a doctor to monitor the amount of HIV in your blood and see how well your immune system is working.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 16, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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