Infection with the virus can leave a person asymptomatic. Alternatively symptoms can occur within 4-12 weeks of coming into contact with the virus.
The symptoms closely resemble glandular fever and are known as the prodrornal seroconversion illness, as the body begins to develop antibodies. Some people also develop a rash at this time with a temperature. After this period the virus can remain dormant for up to 15 years when the CD4 count begins to drop and lymphadenopathy develops.
HIV infection can resemble many symptoms and eventually, when the immune system is unable to cope, AIDS infection occurs. After diagnosis of AIDS, death often occurs within 20 months (UK figures).
Who is at risk of HIV?
HIV is a global problem. Once predominant in Africa, it is now present worldwide. Those who work with blood products in their occupation are at high risk, as are those who choose to engage in practices that increase the risk of infection. Most new infections occur in developing countries with areas of highest risk being Africa and Southeast Asia.
How can I prevent HIV?
Currently we have no vaccination for protection against HIV and the best method of prevention is personal protection. Personal prevention is essential, such as using a condom when engaging in sexual activity, avoiding tattoos, dental treatment or other practices which involves puncturing the skin, or using equipment which may have been inadequately sterilised. Backpackers and those working long term overseas should consider carrying with them a medical kit.
Note: This information is designed to complement and not replace the relationship that exists with your existing family doctor or travel health professional. Please discuss your travel health requirements with your regular family doctor or practice nurse.