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Medical History and Physical Exam for HIV Infection

Table of Contents

Medical History and Physical Exam for HIV Infection

Exam Overview

When you are first diagnosed with HIV, your doctor will check your current health status. He or she will ask questions about your current symptoms and past health to find out whether you have had any HIV-related illnesses, whether you have medicine allergies, whether your immunizations are up-to-date, and whether you have ever been hospitalized for illness or surgery.

Many of the tests a doctor does during the initial exam will be repeated during regular checkups to monitor changes in your health.

Medical history

You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:

Physical exam

Your doctor will do a complete physical exam to find out your present state of health. This may include the following exams:

Why It Is Done

The medical history and physical exam are done right after a person has been diagnosed with HIV infection (2 positive ELISA tests and 1 positive Western blot assay).

A thorough physical exam will provide information about your present state of health. Your doctor will talk to you about the benefits and risks of starting treatment for HIV.

During later visits, your doctor will do tests, such as viral load and CD4+ cell count, to see whether your health status is changing.

These exams will be done during regular follow-up exams or if specific symptoms develop.


The medical history and physical exam may provide the following results.


No abnormalities are found. After the initial workup, talk to your doctor to decide how often to schedule follow-up exams.

If you do not have symptoms but you have a high CD4+ cell count and a low viral load, your doctor will probably recommend that you have follow-up exams at least every 6 months or sooner if you develop symptoms of illness.


Signs of illness are found. Follow-up and treatment will depend on the specific problem.

What To Think About

Your family medicine physician or internist may not be able to diagnose and treat all the problems that can be caused by HIV infection. Your doctor may refer you to another doctor who specializes in conditions that affect different body systems. Before you make an appointment with a specialist, find out whether he or she has experience treating people who have HIV-related illnesses.

Complications of HIV may require treatment by the following doctors:

Complete the medical test information form (PDF) to help you prepare for this test.

Credits for Medical History and Physical Exam for HIV Infection

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Shalit, MD, PhD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised May 17, 2012

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