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let's clear something up...

Apr 30, 1997

Dear Doc, After reading many of the posts to your web page, I am still not entirely sure how to interpret some of your answers. Considering the length of time the HIV virus will live outside the body, you say that it is only for a few minutes. However, you also say that when the blood is dry, the virus is dead. It would most certainly take more than several minutes for blood to dry, so my question is: is the virus alive as long as there is blood that hasn't dried? If you have some blood on a razor, but because of the moisture in the air in the bathroom it takes a long time to dry, would there be anything to worry about beyond a few minutes? Also, you often say that there is no one symptom or group of symptoms that can definitively signal an HIV or AIDS infection. Of course, nothing is 100%, but is there ever a symptom or collection of symptoms happening at once that may make it probable? What about lesions, nodes, night sweats, etc., happening all together? If not, then why even answer questions about symptoms? There should be a message that simply says "Absolutely no one symptom or group of symptoms should ever worry you in regards to an HIV or AIDS infection. Regardless of what symptoms you may have, do not worry that you have been infected. It is much more likely that any symptoms you may have would be due to a number of other illnesses or diseases. Get tested six months after the last possible opportunity for infection and don't worry about it until you get the results. Nothing you could ask regarding symptoms could result in a valid opinion from anybody." This may or may not be the message you are trying to get across, but that's how I've begun to understand it... Is it at all correct? Thanks for all the good you're doing, keep it up!

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. Regarding your comments about survival of HIV outside the body:

The HIV virus can only live in the environment that is specifically within the human body. It cannot live in an environment outside the human body. There are many variables that determine how long the virus will live outside the body. The exact length of time the virus will survive depends on the exact environmental conditions that the virus is in. Because environmental conditions can vary, so can the length of time of survival. This is why there is no single amount of time that anybody can give you regarding the survival of HIV outside the body. But generally speaking, under most circumstances, the virus can only survive for several minutes outside the body.

One of the environmental variables that determines how long the virus will survive, is whether the conditions surrounding the virus is wet or dry. The virus cannot survive in a dry environment. So if a body fluid like blood or semen dries, the virus will die, since it cannot live in a dry environment. However, even in a wet environment (like swimming pools, sewage etc.), the virus will still not survive. Remember, the virus can only survive in the specific environment found within the human body. So a dry environment is just one of the environmental conditions that the virus will not survive. Even in a wet environment, if the environment differs from those found within the human body, the virus will still not survive. This is why HIV will not survive in swimming pools and sewage. Once outside the human body, the virus rapidly weakens and dies. The longer it is outside the body, the less the chance is for transmission to occur. Normally, the virus will be dead within minutes after it is outside the body. Simply put, The virus can only survive in the specific environmental conditions found inside the human body. Once the virus is outside the body, it is in a very hostile environment, and the virus cannot survive, unless it gets into another persons body within minutes.

Regarding your comments about symptoms:

As I have repeatedly stated, there are no specific symptoms that can definitively indicate that a person has HIV infection or AIDS. There could be symptoms that may suggest HIV infection or AIDS, but the symptoms of HIV/AIDS are also the same symptoms as that of many, many other illnesses.This is why we depend so strongly on laboratory tests for the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, and other diseases of the body. Symptoms merely suggest to a physician what illnesses might be the cause of a persons problems. Physicians then depend on doing laboratory tests to determine the exact cause of the problem. The only thing that symptoms tell you is, if they do not go away, or if they get very severe, then you need to see a doctor. That's all they tell you. It's also important to remember that a person can have HIV and even full-blown AIDS, and have no symptoms at all. Here again, is why we depend so much on laboratory testing. If a person has been at risk of infection, we strongly encourage that person to get tested, regardless of whether they have any symptoms or not.

You will also note that I make it very clear to everyone visiting this website, that "nobody, not yourselves, myself, nor anybody on the Internet, nor any AIDS Hotline, can tell you if your symptoms may be HIV related, without having laboratory tests done". The purpose of my posting, "A MESSAGE FROM RICK SOWADSKY ABOUT SYMPTOM QUESTIONS" is to answer the most common questions people have about symptoms, and to make everyone aware that nobody can diagnose a persons symptoms over the computer, or over the phone. Only a physician, who sees you in person, knows your entire medical history, and is able to do laboratory tests, can diagnose and treat a person's medical problems.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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