It's been three weeks since I had sex with that guy who didn't have a condom. And now I've got something a lot like the flu. I'm running a fever, and my head hurts. I'm so tired I don't feel
like doing much of anything. But the last time I had the flu, I didn't have
these mouth sores -- or this red rash on my chest. If it's not the flu, what is
It might be HIV. No, this isn't AIDS -- not yet, and maybe not ever.
These are some common symptoms of acute HIV infection. In 50% to 80% of
patients, HIV infection starts with these flu-like symptoms. There's nearly
always fatigue, fever, and headache. Mouth sores and a rash on the trunk are a
tip-off that this isn't the flu. But not everybody with acute HIV infection
gets these symptoms.
If you come down with flu-like symptoms two to four weeks after sex with
someone who might have HIV infection, see a doctor right away. A normal HIV
test won't work. Standard HIV tests look for antibodies in the blood, and your
body hasn't made any yet. But there are tests that can tell whether
you're infected. If you do have HIV, you may wish to start treatment right
away. Studies suggest that treatment during acute HIV infection may be much
more effective than later treatment.
On my last night in southeast Asia, my clients threw a party that got
pretty wild. I had a lot more to drink than I'd meant to, and ended up sleeping
with one of the women who worked in the bar. I didn't use any protection. Dumb.
Real dumb. A few days after coming home, I came down with painful little bumps
on my penis. Now the bumps have turned into pus-filled open sores with raggedy
edges. The sores are soft to the touch. Today there's a pain deep under the skin on the inside of my thigh. I guess I'd better see
my doctor. What's she going to say -- and what should I tell my wife?