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?
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?