What's in this article?
What is Seroconversion?
Seroconversion is the interval, several weeks after HIV infection, during which antibodies are first produced and rise to detectable levels. Antibodies generally begin to appear within one to two weeks of exposure, and antibody concentrations (titres) continue to increase for several months thereafter. Seroconversion takes place within three weeks in most infected individuals, although very rare cases are reported in which seroconversion does not occur for up to a year.
Seroconversion is often although not always accompanied by a flare of symptoms called seroconversion illness (sometimes also called acute retroviral syndrome). Symptomatic seroconversion illness occurs in at least 50%, and possibly as many as 80 or 90%, of infected individuals.
Symptoms of HIV seroconversion
The symptoms of HIV seroconversion resemble those of a heavy cold or flu.
They commonly involve multiple symptoms that all occur at the same time. The commonly last about a week and then resolve. If you get this heavy response and recently had a risk, it is more important to contact a doctor or clinic that can decide your level of risk.
Stress and anxiety can produce similar general symptoms even though they have not caught HIV. This includes tiredness from not sleeping, anxiety and worry.
The most common HIV seroconversion symptoms include a combination of several of the following:
- fatigue (tiredness)
- fever (high temperature)
- sore throat
- loss of appetite
- aching muscles and joints
- swollen lymph glands
Seroconversion involves several symptoms that all start at the same time. Only having one or two of these symptoms is unlikely to be HIV.
These symptoms are not a reliable way of diagnosing HIV infection.
Firstly, 20% of people who become infected with HIV have no symptoms. Secondly, none of the symptoms listed above, on their own, are an indication of HIV.
However, if you get several of these symptoms at the same time AND you have had a recent risk of exposure to HIV, then this MAY be considered an indication that you have been infected.
The only way to know if you are HIV positive is by taking an HIV test.
What does the HIV test involve?
Your doctor will collect a sample of your blood to test for HIV. A trained medical professional can collect the sample at your doctor’s office, blood bank, or other site. They will draw your blood from a vein on the inside of your arm.
They will start by cleaning the injection site. Then they will wrap an elastic band around your arm to cause your vein to swell. They will inject a needle into the vein and draw a sample of your blood into a vial.
Once they’ve collected a sample of your blood, they will send it to a laboratory for testing. If HIV antibodies are not detected, your test results will be negative. If HIV antibodies are detected, your results will be positive.
Home test kits are also available, but they’re less reliable than professional tests. You should always have a professionally administered test to confirm if you’ve contracted HIV.
For information about treatment, talk with your health care provider. There is a lot of information and support available for people who have HIV. For more about HIV, see HIV and AIDS.