HIV - Prevention Expert Forum
Time before symptoms occur
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This forum is limited to prevention of HIV and to safe sex in general. All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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Time before symptoms occur

I am very curious.  I have read many conflicting things on the internet about the asymptomatic time period of hiv,  I have read the average amount of years before you develop AIDS without treatment is 10 years.  What is the average amount of time before most people know they have hiv (develop symptoms that alert them)  and does this differ by age at time of infection.  Do people in their 20's differ from those in their 40's 50's and even 60's?
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Good question.  People begin to get sick due to HIV as their immune function deteriorates due to the effects of the virus on the immune system.  The marker for this deterioration, in the broadest and most general sense is the CD4 lymphocyte count which, while fluctuating on a daily basis, tends to deteriorate slowly over time.  The average time for the deterioration to occur to the state where people begin to get the sorts of infections which define AIDS is about 10 years. Like all average figures, the rate of decline varies from person to person as does individual susceptibility to various infections but this is a general overview of what happens.  Whether immunity deteriorates somewhat (but not necessarily dramatically)faster in older persons is unclear but there is some evidence that this may be the case.  EWH
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I would assume that most often years before you develop AIDS defining illnesses you would know something was wrong?  Is there a loose time frame for this?  Sometimes I think that some of the websites are hell bent on scaring people.
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300980_tn?1194933000
You are correct abou the web sites.  The reason we promote testing is because often there are not other signs before people develop AIDS-defining illnesses.  In fact, on this forum we spend a tremendous time trying to explain to peole that the proper way to evaluate for HIV is with blood tests, not based on symptoms. EWH
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