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May 3, 2000

Two years ago a relative progressed to AIDS. He has a viral load of 8,000 and CD4 of 87. I had read at one time that once you had progressed to AIDS, the life expectancy was 3-5 years after diagnosis. Is that still true or has the prognosis changed with the new medications? The medication he is now on had lowered his VL to undetectable and upped the CD4 count, but now the VL is 8,000. We would like to know what his life expectancy would be. Thank You!

Response from Dr. Feinberg

No one really knows how long patients treated with the new drugs will live because they've only been available for 4-5 years. A viral load of 8,000 is pretty modest, and should be able to be suppressed to undetectable again with a change of medicines as long as your relative is taking them the way he/she is supposed to. Even if his/her viral load remains detectable, the medicines appear to offer longer-term protection from end-stage complications than people originally thought possible. So I'd be optimistic and try to help your relative stick to his/her medicines.

A Friend Initially Testing Positive

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