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Duration of Symptoms - conflicting info
Jul 30, 1997

Hello. I am a student conducting some research in the field of HIV infection. I have read elsewhere that acute symptoms can last for several weeks and even months, especially when symptoms are very severe or when the patient experiences asceptic menengitis. Another question on The Body gives some proof to this theory (www.thebody.com/gallant/answers/quest901.html). How do you reconcile your view with these other points of view? I look forward to your response.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. When we are talking about any aspect of any disease in medicine, whether it is AIDS, Cancer, Heart Disease, etc., if you look hard enough, you will always find some variability in health information. This is because medicine is not an absolute science. Nothing in medicine is absolute or 100%. Medicine is a very complex science.

People often try to find simple answers to complex questions (like symptoms questions). When we give health information on any disease, to keep things as understandable as possible, we try to answer what is found in the majority of cases. We cannot answer what would be found in every single case. Much of what appears to be conflicting information, merely indicates the wide variability you will find in any aspect of any disease in medicine. If you look hard enough, you will find exceptions to everything in medicine, regardless of what disease you are talking about.

When we are talking about the symptoms of any disease (including AIDS), you will find variability of information. This is to be expected. When I discuss symptoms with people, I talk about what is found in the majority of cases, not every single case. In the question you are referring to, it is difficult to determine if this individual actually had Acute Viral Syndrome or not. You will note that this persons doctor ASSUMED their symptoms were due to recent HIV infection (Acute Viral Syndrome). Their symptoms may have been HIV related, but it is hard to know for sure . This persons symptoms may also have been due to numerous other causes (including other viruses). Whatever the cause of this persons symptoms may be, the most important thing is that they get the necessary treatment (as indicated in Dr. Gallant's response).

In summary, if you want simple and absolute answers to anything in medicine, you will not find it. If you look hard enough, you will find exceptions to everything in medicine. You will note in my symptom answers, I stress that a person should not assume they have HIV (or any disease) based on symptoms. 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. Symptoms alone cannot be used to diagnose any disease by themselves. With any disease, you will see some variability in symptoms. That is why laboratory diagnosis becomes so important.

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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