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Asymptomatic HIV infection
Asymptomatic HIV infection


Definition:

Asymptomatic HIV infection is a phase of chronic infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) during which there are no symptoms of HIV infection.



Alternative Names:

HIV infection - asymptomatic



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Asymptomatic HIV infection is a period of varying length in which the immune system slowly deteriorates without symptoms.

The length of this phase varies from person to person. It depends on how quickly the HIV virus is copying itself and the genetic differences that affect the way the immune system handles the virus.

Some people can go 10 years or longer without symptoms, while others may have symptoms and worsening immune function within a few years after the original infection.



Symptoms:

Asymptomatic HIV infection, by definition, does not have symptoms associated with HIV, such as:



Signs and tests:

The diagnosis of HIV infection is based on standard blood tests such as the HIV antibody test (ELISA) . A Western blot confirms the diagnosis.



Treatment:

When a person without symptoms should receive therapy is controversial. People who are asymptomatic but who have CD4 lymphocyte counts of less than 200 should be on therapy.

Some doctors would also treat individuals with CD4 counts between 200 and 350, but the toxic side effects of the antiretroviral medications has made this less common.

Doctors must consider other factors, such as patient readiness and ability to stick to therapy, before starting antiretroviral therapy.



Support Groups:

See: AIDS - support group



Expectations (prognosis):

HIV is a chronic medical condition that can be treated, but not cured. Combinations of antiretroviral drugs have significantly delayed the progression to AIDS and decreased the incidence of AIDS-related opportunistic infections.



Complications:

People with asymptomatic infection can progress to symptomatic HIV infection and develop opportunistic infections associated with HIV. In addition, pregnant women with asymptomatic HIV infection can still transmit HIV to their fetus.



Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if you have HIV and you develop fevers, weight loss, swollen glands, or night sweats. You will need to be checked, and your doctor might need to consider giving you antiretroviral therapy.



Prevention:

You can lower the risk of sexually transmitting the HIV infection by practicing safe sex behaviors, as well as avoiding contact with contaminated blood (not using injection drugs or not sharing needles or syringes, and proper screening of blood products).

People who are at risk for HIV infection should have regular testing to ensure early diagnosis of this infection, as many treatment options are available.




Review Date: 11/1/2007
Reviewed By: Kenneth M. Wener, M.D., Department of Infectious Diseases, Lahey Clinic, Burlington, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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