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What exactly happens to the infected individual during the latency stage of HIV?

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Practicing since : 2005
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Hi Dr. Batra : I have a query regarding HIV infection. I have read that the HIV infection is quite acute in first 2-3 months and then it goes in the latency stage for years. My query is, what exactly happens to the infected individual during the latency stage. Is he able to lead a normal life without medication? Can he continue to work? Can he keep this news from his family and friends? how time does he have after the first 2-3 months before it becomes a public knowledge about his HIV status?
Posted Wed, 20 Feb 2013 in HIV and AIDS
Answered by Dr. Sudarshan 2 hours later
Thanks for writing in.
HIV is caused by viral infection due to human retrovirus disease.
Once the virus enters the human body within few weeks(2-6weeks)there is seroconversion illness.This is characterized by fever, abdominal pain,chills,skin rashes,headache ,swollen neck glands,oral ulcers etc.This illness resembles the flu like symptoms.It is marker of seroconversion i.e. conversion from seronegative to HIV seropositive.
This episode is self limiting i.e. goes away on its own without treatment.
After this there is undefined period of latency during which there a person is apparently asymptomatic .there are no clinical signs or symptoms.This can extend from few months to few years.During this period a person can transmit the infection to others sexually or through blood or body fluids.
Apart from this he can live like normal person, eat and share utensils clothes etc. Make friends ,do usual job/work etc.
After variable time period person ends his latent period and becomes symptomatic.then also person cannot be identified as HIV positive from appearance.Symptoms can be cough,diarhhea fever ,weight loss of longer than 1month.
Its only in late stages when particular facial changes,pigmentation , fat loss become obvious patient can be recognized as seropositive.
Hope this helps.
I will be available for follow up.
Dr Sudarshan
Dermatologist, HIV specialist.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: What exactly happens to the infected individual during the latency stage of HIV? 58 minutes later
thanks doctor.

From the data available in medical sciences, can you please let me know, in case of a normal scenario, how much is the duration of the latency period, without any HIV specific medication? I can understand that the same varies from person to person, but normally, what is the duration observed, when an individual can sustain normal routine life before starting to show up serious signs of opportunistic illnesses or other serious symptoms? And during this latency period, although not appearance wise, but what all physical and mental challenges the ondividual is likely to suffer, which may make him unable to work and earn money?

also, apart from the symptoms mentioned by you in your response for the infection, are there any other specific symptioms to look out for?
Answered by Dr. Sudarshan 5 hours later
Latency period varies from person to person .In my experience and average data available it ranges from 2-5 years appx.
In India Tuberculosis is the most common opportunistic infection.It presents with cough and low grade fever.
Apart from this there is no real symptoms that can be present.
Inability to heal the sores,recurrent colds and skin infections,oral ulcers,oral thrush,chronic low grade fever are the common physical problems encountered.
Largely patient is asymptomatic in this phase and has largely apprehension and anxiety issues.What one must know is HIV is a disease like any other.It can now be treated effectively with medication.With newer drugs coming up lifespan of HIV patients has greatly increased recently.
Hope this helps.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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