I was wondering: some diseases have stages with specific names, as opposed to "Stage I", "Stage II", etc. Should I capitalize the names of the stages or leave them in lowercase?

I'm asking in respect to the disease HIV, where the stages are named "acute HIV infection", "clinical latency" and "AIDS". Does each name have to be capitalized? According to a few websites (like aids.gov) the stages aren't normally capitalized, but I want to be sure. (I also would like to know for future reference, and for other diseases and the like.)

  • Welcome to EL&U. There is no one right or wrong answer to this question, and it may be closed as primarily opinion-based. It is a matter of style, so you should adhere to the guidance provided by your editor, publication, organization, or preferred style manual.
    – choster
    Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 23:17
  • Acute HIV infection is an old term. Nowadays it's referred to as "acute retroviral syndrome"
    – Centaurus
    Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 23:43
  • I don't understand why this is being voted to close as primarily opinion based. A specific style guide may specify one way, and another another way. Or it may be in free variation. But those are factual phenomena, not opinions. Which one to use may very well be up to your own opinion, but that means there is a factual answer 'you can choose'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 13:48
  • This has generated a meta: meta.english.stackexchange.com/q/7901/13804
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 14:42
  • I'd vote to reopen if the OP made an attempt at research.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 17:35

1 Answer 1


If I were writing about disease stages and I wanted to find a relevant style guide to help me with decisions such as whether to capitalize stage in a term like "Stage I," and whether to capitalize descriptive stage names such as "Clinical Latency," I would obtain and consult the American Medical Association's AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors, which is now, I believe in its tenth edition. Unfortunately, access to the online AMA Manual of Style requires a subscription—and I have neither a subscription nor a copy of any print edition of the manual.

For what it's worth, The Chicago Manual of Style, fifteenth edition (2003) seems to favor lowercasing stage (and clinical latency) in connection with progressive diseases:

8.153 Diseases, procedures, and such. Names of diseases, syndromes, diagnostic procedures, anatomical parts, and the like are lowercased, except for the proper names forming part of the term. Acronyms and initialisms are capitalized.

[Relevant examples:] acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS; Alzheimer disease; Down syndrome; non-Hodgkin lymphoma

However, as Chicago itself notes (at 8.152), "Medical writers or editors [in the United States] should consult the American Medical Association Manual of Style or Scientific Style and Format [for detailed guidance on style questions in these areas]." If you're writing primarily for a U.S. medical audience, it makes sense to follow the preeminent style guide for that audience. Of course, as in dealing with other type of style question, you are free to take advice from whatever source you like unless you're under strict instructions to follow a particular style.

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