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HIV and AIDS

Is It Possible To Have HIV And Not Display Symptoms And For How Long?

06/06/2000

Question:

I have a question that I hope that you can answer about AIDS. What is the longest time that a person can be infected with HIV without displaying any symptoms of the virus? My friend, who is 21, said that her dad (who was diagnosed with full blown AIDS about 2 years ago) said that the doctors told him that he could have been infected for over 20 years. This would thus make her at risk of having the virus. This seemed like a very long time (21 years) to be a carrier of the virus and not display any symptoms of it. I told her that the longest time that I had heard of (until you see symptoms) is at the most 10-12 years.

She has been tested before and it was negative. Her dad isn`t the most reliable source of information and tends to exaggerate things, so I would like to know if there is a possiblility that she is infected? What are the facts on this? Thank you.

Answer:

The only possible way you could have HIV for 20 years and not know it is to have the great good fortune to be what is termed a "long-term non-progressor". These individuals are rare, but have immune systems capable of containing the virus and in some cases may be infected with a weaker strain of HIV.

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Response by:

Judith   Feinberg, MD Judith Feinberg, MD
Professor of Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati