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A Message About Acute Viral Syndrome
Dec 19, 1997

Question #1:

A little more than 2 months ago I may have experienced

acute viral syndrome. I tested negative at that time and am

waiting for a 3 month interval to retest. A few days ago, I

noticed a whitish coating in the middle and towards the back of my tongue. I called the CDC to ask about the possibility of candidiasis appearing this early in the game if I am infected and was told that it could be. Still concerned

about the prospect I called your hotline and was told that

candidiasis would only show up "years later". Can you provide some some clarification? Thank-you.

Question #2:

Rick, I read a 1994 Australian medical paper describing Seroconversion illness that mentioned Brachial Neuritis as a possible symptom. What is this? is it directly caused by HIV or by a secondary infection?. Is it common in other viral infections?.

The same paper said that people usually develop diagnostic antibodies after 2-6 weeks, but that 3 months is given to include a level of safety. Are people taking longer to seroconvert these days, hence 6 months?. Thanks for providing this excellent forum, and for answering these questions.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your questions. Please read the following information very carefully! Before reading my answer here, please read the following post FIRST:

Duration of Symptoms--Conflicting Info

This post discusses the reasons you will commonly find what appears to be conflicting information, about HIV symptoms, testing, transmission, etc.

I have noticed that many people have become almost obsessed (and in some cases, totally obsessed) with Acute Viral Syndrome. People have tried to use this syndrome as a convenient way to convince themselves that they have HIV. As I have stated numerous times, one CANNOT determine if they have HIV based on ANY symptoms whatsoever, since EVERY symptom associated with HIV and AIDS looks like the symptoms of other illnesses.

Depending on the study you look at, some studies suggest that up to 70% of persons infected, will get this syndrome. Others put this statistic at 50%-90%. Realistically, we really cannot give a good statistic on exactly how often this syndrome occurs. This is because the symptoms are so non-specific, that it is extremely difficult to really know whether a person actually has this syndrome or not. Whatever the true statistic is, one thing that we can comfortably say, is that not all people will get this syndrome, and in those that do, the symptoms are identical to those of other types of illnesses. In other words:

1) If you have symptoms similar to that of Acute Viral Syndrome, it means nothing (in terms of having HIV).

2) If you do not have these symptoms, it also means nothing (in terms of having HIV).

The ONLY way to know if you have HIV is to be tested. If you look at an entire list of symptoms associated with Acute Viral Syndrome, the list is actually quite long. By far, the majority of persons who have this syndrome report flu-like symptoms. There are a FEW cases where neurological symptoms, thrush, and other uncommon symptoms, may have been associated with Acute Viral Syndrome. However, these symptoms are NOT commonly seen with this syndrome. When associated with HIV, thrush and neurological symptoms are MOST COMMONLY seen years after infection. And remember, Acute Viral Syndrome only last for a week or two. Thrush, neurological symptoms, and EVERY single symptom associated with Acute Viral Syndrome (common or rare) can also be due to numerous other causes.

I am making the following recommendations to persons worried about Acute Viral Syndrome:

1) Do NOT try to match your symptoms to ANY of those associated with this syndrome (common or rare). Doing so will cause you more problems than solutions.

2) If you find yourself spending "hours and hours" on the Internet trying to diagnose yourself with HIV, or if you find yourself calling AIDS hotlines numerous times, stop yourself! You cannot use information on the Internet to diagnose your symptoms. And AIDS hotlines cannot diagnose your symptoms either. Do not spend large amounts of your time (and money) trying to diagnose yourself. Instead, if you are having symptoms, spend your time and money with your doctor. Only lab tests, and a visit to your doctor, can diagnose any symptoms you are having.

3) If you have been told you are at low/no risk for HIV, or if you have tested negative beyond 6 months, and you still find yourself fearful of having HIV, get counseling! Spending "hours and hours" online, or calling up AIDS hotlines numerous times, is not going to solve your problem. In fact it will most likely stress you out even more. Under these circumstances, the time and money spent on counseling, is much more productive, than the time and money spent online or on the phone. Getting counseling is also more productive than wasting your time and money on unnecessary HIV tests.

4) If you find yourself getting worried about rare symptoms associated with Acute Viral Syndrome (like those mentioned above), this is a signal that you may be stressing yourself out needlessly. The longer and harder you search the medical literature, the more you will discover rare and unusual cases reported in medical journals. If you look hard enough and long enough, you will find that just about anything is possible in medicine, regardless of what disease one is talking about.

5) If you actually have put yourself at risk, get tested, regardless of whether you have symptoms or not.

In summary, if you look hard enough, and long enough in the medical literature, you will start finding unusual and rare occurrences reported, on just about everything in medicine. Theoretically speaking, everything in medicine is possible, and the answer to every single question to anything is probably "yes". But we must keep things in a realistic perspective. Rather than spending your time worrying about the rare exceptions in life, spend it on making your life healthier (physically and emotionally). You cannot change the past....only the present and the future.

For more information on Acute Viral Syndrome, please go to the posting, "What are the symptoms of HIV/AIDS", found in the Frequently Asked Questions area of this website.

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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