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What does it (AIDS and illness) look like?? [To readers, please share your experiences- BY]
Jan 21, 2009

Dr. Young, forgive my ignorance, but you answered a question of mine quite well the other day in my not taking medications and the levels I had discusses as you said were qualified as AIDS level numbers. I appreciate your answer. I ask people all the time what this thing looks like if someone does not take medication. I ask it to doctors all the time and they say "You will develop AIDS and you will die." Well, I understand that, death isn't necessarily a deterrent...I mean don't get me wrong I don't want to die, but life isn't something I grasp to either as I believe there is much more beyond this. I want to know what this looks like if I don't take the meds, what will develop, what happens to a person who does not medicate and is it possible to treat the OI's without treating the disease itself? I am terribly afraid that the medication will affect my way of life and that is one thing I don't want affected. I would rather die happy living my life than live miserable on medication. I hope this makes sense. I just want brutal blunt honesty...what does this "thing" look like???

Thanks again Dr. Young and my best to you!!!

Response from Dr. Young

Thanks for your follow up.

Your reluctance about HIV medications is a common one, and a sadly misinformed one. So, since you asked for it, here's some honest thoughts.

HIV medications can be very, very well tolerated-- to the point where I ask my patients to report ANY side effects or interference with normal daily activities. This is because we have the ability to find medications that nearly all patients can take without side effects. When taken with good adherence, HIV medications can prevent disease progression, or restore health to the vast majority of persons who were diagnosed too late (or waited to start).

On the other hand, HIV disease progression is not a pretty thing. While each patient who develops AIDS has a different set of complications and symptoms, here's a rouge's list of a few of the common ones:

Fever, profound weight loss and anorexia, drenching night sweats and fatigue. Pneumonias (the sense of suffocation) Cancers (of skin, lymph nodes, cervix, anus, liver to name a few) Serious infections of eye (leading to blindness), brain (leading to stroke and paralysis) or colon (chronic, terrible cramps and diarrhea).

These complications can start slowly or quickly, but what is clear is that in the absence of treatment, complications continue to accumulate and the quality of life is horribly impaired.

In my view and over a decade of HIV care, I can say without a second of hesitation that the symptoms of AIDS and its complications are far, far worse than the small risk of side effects from HIV medications.

I hope this gives you a better view of the situation.

Thanks for reading.


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