Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on September 2, 2011

How long after unprotected sex are HIV symptoms likely to appear?

I had unprotected sex with a man infected with HIV, but he pulled out before he came inside of me...am I at risk for contracting HIV? Also, I’m tired all the time...is this an HIV symptom? How long does it take for symptoms to appear?

answered by Eric Christoff, MD, AAHIVM on September 2, 2011

 

You asked some great questions about HIV risks and HIV symptoms, so let’s take them one at a time. First, yes, you’re at risk for contracting HIV from having unprotected sex with someone who is infected with virus...even if he pulls out before orgasm. But what’s your degree of risk?

Your risk of contracting HIV depends on a variety of factors. Was your encounter with this man a one-time thing? Was the sex oral, vaginal or anal? Studies show that the risk of contracting HIV can range from 1% to 10% each and every time you have an exposure to the virus, particularly with anal sex. Why? Because HIV is more likely to be spread during anal sex where mucous membranes are more easily broken.

Your risk is lower if he didn’t ejaculate inside of you. The small drops of semen that may come out of the penis before orgasm often contain HIV, but the amount of HIV is usually not high enough to pose a significant risk of infection.

Regardless of your degree of risk, however, the only way to know your status for sure is to get tested for HIV and other STDs. In the meantime, no more unprotected sex.

Is being tired a symptom of HIV? Yes, low energy can be a symptom of HIV, but it’s also a symptom of many other conditions like depression, anemia, diabetes, sleep apnea...you get the picture. Again, getting tested is the only way to know for certain whether the cause of your fatigue is HIV or something else.

Regarding HIV symptoms, it’s possible to have HIV and not feel sick or see anything unusual on the body...it can take years for real symptoms to develop. Early signs of HIV can include flu-like symptoms like fever, headaches, muscle aches, nausea or a sore throat. But symptoms can be different for different people, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that sexually active adults get an HIV test once a year or more if you engage in high-risk sexual behavior.


For more information about HIV symptoms, check out our Expert Guide to HIV. You’ll also find a wealth of information about prevention, risk factors and testing. Please take care of yourself, and I wish you the best of health.

 

Eric Christoff, MD, AAHIVM

Dr. Christoff is a practicing physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. His areas of expertise include the treatment of HIV and syphilis along with other STDs, the medical treatment of depression and chronic fatigue, and the specific health needs of gay and lesbian patients. Dr. Christoff was educated at the University of Toledo, College of Medicine and completed his residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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