If you think that you may have been exposed to HIV, it can be a scary time. Your mind races, wanders, and you might feel anxiety or confusion on what to do. This time after exposure is the highest risk of transmitting infection, so you’ll need to prepare, plan, and protect yourself. If you think you may have been exposed to HIV here’s what you should do.
The reality is, that while the HIV virus has many symptoms, you can not rely on symptoms–or lack of symptoms–alone to confirm whether or not you may have the virus. The only way to know for sure is to get tested. The moment you think you may have been exposed to HIV or participated in one of the risk factors, you should make a plan to get tested and participate in follow up testings as your practitioner may advise.
WHY YOU CANT RELY ON SYMPTOMS
It’s human nature to immediately think that if you aren’t experiencing symptoms you must be fine, or likewise, if you are experiencing symptoms to self diagnose. With HIV the symptoms will vary depending on the stage and the person. While one person may experience a flu-like illness within a month after infection, another person may not feel sick at all.
The length of the symptoms will vary between stage and person as well. The initial flu-like symptoms which can include anything from fever to swollen lymph nodes can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. This can be particularly confusing if you experience symptoms that go away. Many of these initial symptoms could be related to other illnesses so it’s important not to dismiss or jump to conclusions if you suspect you have been exposed to HIV. While symptoms are a way to identify if you have the HIV virus, lack of symptoms aren’t a reason to be lax if you have been exposed. In many cases, people have gone up to a decade after getting infected before showing symptoms of the virus.
WHAT TO DO AFTER YOU’VE BEEN TESTED
After you have been tested, it’s important to be on top of your follow up. Be sure to get the results of your test and consult with a healthcare provider. If you’re test is HIV-positive you’ll need to learn about treatment options and if you’re test is HIV-negative this is a great time to learn more about prevention and reducing your risk factors.