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ARS Symtpoms / 12 Weeks Later
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ARS Symtpoms / 12 Weeks Later

I had unprotected vaginal sex several times with a partner of uknown HIV status approx.12 weeks ago.  I tested negative for HIV 10 weeks after my potential exposure using a testing method known as ICMA.  

Currently I'm having under arm tightness / swelling and rashes on my chest, neck, face, groin, feet, as well as daily headaches.  This is the second time I've had these underarm feelings.  The first was about 3 weeks after my last exposure (12 weeks ago).  The rashes have been going on for about a month now.  The headache has been daily for about two months.  Is there anyway at all this could be HIV related?  Could stress cause this?  I guess I'm not convinced my 10 week test was acurate.  What else could be causing these symptoms?  None of this started until after my sexual encounter...

Here are my questions:

1) Could ARS symptoms continue 12 weeks after my potential exposure?

2) Coule ARS start this late?

3) Realistically, how reliable is a 10 week negative test (in % please)?  Seems like I get a different answer everywhere I look.  Some say 6-8 weeks, some say 3 months and beyond.  The CDC says 97% of people will show positive at 3 months if they're infected.  

4) Could stress cause the headaches and rashes?  Advil, Asprin, even prescribed meds are not even touching this headache.  It's very dull, but nagging...



I appreciate the help...!

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I stopped reading after the opening paragraph.  A negative HIV antibody test 10 weeks after the last possible exposure is virtually certain evidence that infection did not occur.  This is especially true if the exposure was not particularly high risk, which applies to vaginal sex, unless the partner is known for sure to have HIV.

Now I have read the rest.  ARS doesn't cause the sort of symptoms you describe.  Also, the negative test proves that something else is the cause.  To the specific questions:

1) ARS symptoms don't last that long; and as I said, your symptoms don't sound like ARS anyway.

2) Onset of ARS symptoms 3 weeks after exposure is possible but atypical; it's usually 10-20 days.

3) Probably 98-99% is about right; some experts say 100%.  The reason you can find lots of variation from different sources is that the data are not precise -- therefore different experts come to different conclusions about it.  But the chance you really have HIV depends on more than the test results.  It also depends on the chance your partner had HIV and, if she had it, the chance you were infected.  Including those odds plus 98-100% test reliability makes your chance of having HIV in the range of 1 in many million.  That is zero for all practical purposes.

4) Yes, stress is a good bet for your symptoms, especially since pain medications don't help the headache.  And whenever a person suggests that his or her own symptoms have a psychological origin, usually s/he is correct.  So your own suspicion makes it more likely.

See a health care provider if your symptoms persist or you otherwise remain concerned.  
Be up front about their possible stress-related origin the follow his or her advice.  In the meantime, disregard HIV as a cause.  No chance.

Best wishes--  HHH, MD
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H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D.Blank
University of Washington
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