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HIV+ for 14 years,no meds,how common is that?
Aug 24, 1999

My husband has been HIV+ since he was 13. He has a blood disorder and contracted HIV through blood products. How unique is his situation? He has never taken any medications, he has been perfectly healthy. He very rarely even gets a cold!!! He VL is undetectable and has always been, and his t-cell counts have always held at 525-560. Before I was aware of his status we had unprotected sex for almost 5 years. The last 2 years I have tested every 6 months and continue to be neg. I recently joined a vaccine study...but I was wondering, how rare is this????Is it possible he is resistant because of the time he was infected? Going through growth spurts and hormone changes, could his body recognize it as a "normal" state??? Or is he just lucky?

Response from Dr. Remien

There are more people like your husband than some people realize. Some people, like your husband, are very slow progressors. A smaller percentage of people are called "long-term non-progressors." These people don't show any significant signs of immune decline for as many as 20 years or more. Nobody knows but some experts estimate that only about 5% of people living with HIV are long-term non-progressors.

Even before there were highly effective antiviral therapies some natural history studies showed that approximately 50% of people living with HIV progressed to AIDS after ten years. That means that 50% did not progress. Of course there are now more people able to live longer without progressing to AIDS because of effective treatments.

There are no specific characteristics that describe all slow or non-progressors. There are theories about viral factors (e.g., being infected with a weak strain of virus), host factors (e.g. a specific kind of immune response to the virus), and some combination of these factors as reasons for people not progressing to AIDS without treatment. So yes, your husband is one of the lucky ones. Keep in mind however, there is no guarrantee that he could never get sick and also no reason to believe that he cannot transmit the virus to you. So continue to protect yourselves. He should do everything he can to help maintain good health and you should protect yourself from exposure to the virus.

Take care and be well.


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