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Long-term non-progressor of HIV+
Jan 18, 2001

I have been living with HIV since 1982, diagnosed with GRID through an Epidemiology Study. Since then, and to today, I remain antiretroviral-free, with largely stable t-cell counts in the 400-500 range. Over the past year, my viral load has been fluctuating between 20,000 and 180,000. My question is this...why do I continue to develop conditions as esophageal thrush, oral hairy leukoplakia, mulloscum, herpes and neuropathy when my t-cell counts are so high? I've had 2 bouts of community pneumonia over the past 2 years. I'm tired of doctors telling me that my t-cell counts are too high to be getting these persistent symptoms. Why could this be happening? What is the scientific reasoning behind this scenario?

Response from Dr. Feinberg

First of all, I would not describe you as a long-term nonprogressor. You do indeed have signs and symptoms related to your HIV disease, and a substantial viral load. Two bouts of pneumonia within a year satisfies one of the case definitions for AIDS, and you almost meet those criteria. And although your T cell counts remain relatively good, they are not normal. It may be that some of your T cells just don't work that well, even though they're still there. We (and others) have documented patients who have had a tremendous T cell and viral load response to therapy, but are still prone to certain infections, and while I think this is a relatively unusual situation, your experience does not sound entirely dissimilar.

Rather than spend any more energy on your false sense of security about your 'nonprogressor' status, if I were you I'd give some hard thought to starting treatment for your HIV. Then you'll have both T cells and a sense of genuine well-being.

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