Does a person with an AIDS diagnosis take different medication than a person with HIV?
This is a good question. The answer is that the antiretroviral medications (the ones that fight HIV) are the same for people for HIV and AIDS.
People become HIV-infected when a patient’s CD4 falls below 200 (a sign of injured immune system) or if they develop one of several specific infections, then they have the diagnois of AIDS. (We don’t use the term “full blown” because it has no medical meaning and only frightens people). AIDS means a person has HIV and their immune system has really been weakened. We try to start medications (antiretroviral therapy) for people before they develop AIDS, but the same medications still help people with AIDS.
Before 1996, the diagnosis of AIDS usually meant that someone would die within 3 years, or sooner. Now someone with AIDS (think of it as a “severe” HIV infection) can have a much improved immune system and do well.
Today, people with HIV and AIDS are started on medications. If they can take the medications and get good care, then they can do well and live pretty healthy lives.
Susan Hunt, MD