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Recognizing AIDS in Historically Low Incident Areas
Jul 1, 1997

Dr. Gallant, Your sir name fits. My sister, who is about to turn 42, has been sick for almost 3 years with a virus in the sack that surrounds the heart (pericardium?). For the past two years her doctors have repeatably said "She'll get over it or she will die." As she progressively declined, her 24 year old son became incresingly distressed and finally asked her if she had ever been tested for HIV. When the labs came back we were told that she has late stage AIDS. No one recognized what was happening to her, not even her own family. Her CD4 count is 11 and her viral load is 306,000. Of course a "cocktail" was prescribed immediately (Crixovin, 3TC, and AZT) along with a gaggle of other medications to treat all the other opportunistic infections she has aquired in the past three years (so many I can't count them all - fungal infections, loss of vision, severe wasting, etc.) My sister lives in Kitsap County, a sleepy country-like community across the Puget Sound from Seattle. AIDS is not yet prevelent there. To add insult to injury, last winter her dog died and the vet suspected AIDS. Two months later her cat died of feline AIDS (the vet was sure that time). My sister now thinks she killed her own animals. I have three questions: what is her life expectancy under these circumstances? Why did the doctors miss this diagnoisis? and did the cat and dog get AIDS from her? I would like to assure her that she was not the cause of the animal's demise. Thank you so much for being available to so many of us who are battling this disease. Pamela PS I appologize for the length and any typos....

Response from Dr. Gallant

Pamela,



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