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Low T cell count
Apr 23, 2007

My only cousin, 27 years of age, called me last week to tell me he has been diagnosed with HIV, after a pneumonia diagnosis indicative of HIV. He told me his T cell count is 37...he has been quaratined to his house. I am reading and reading and reading and see that a t cell count as low as his is conclusive to AIDS. He tells me that the Dr. did not diagnose him with AIDS. The Dr. told him it was low "possibly due to the pneumonia." Is this in fact possible? He is currently on Bactrin for 6 weeks and Zithromycin. I am concerned that with the miles between us, the incredibly small family we are members of (5 total - living) and his reluctancy to give me the whole scoop in fear of "worrying me" - he is not being fully honest with me and before I put him in the time-out chair for avoiding the truth I want to make sure I am clear about what is going on....I realize you are not treating him and this is second hand info but, even with my B.S. in Vascular Technology I feel so lost in this new information.

Note: the last bit of info I got today was that the Dr. was awaiting results of one more test to determine the exact type of meds to put him on.....

Appreciate you and your commitment to the fight.....

sincerely, Bev

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Bev,

Sorry to hear about your cousin's diagnosis. If indeed his T-cell (CD4) count is 38, he does indeed have AIDS. (This was sometimes referred to as full-blown AIDS, but I dislike that term, as there is no such thing as partially blown AIDS!) An AIDS diagnosis is confirmed for anyone with a CD4 count of less than 200. Certainly an opportunistic infection can lower a CD4 count, but if and when the count drops below 200 for any reason, an AIDS diagnosis is confirmed.

The test your cousin's doctor is waiting for is most likely a resistance test. This test will give information about which HIV medications would be most effective in treating the particular strain of HIV your cousin acquired. Some strains of HIV have developed resistance to certain medications, rendering theses less effective or at times useless.

Don't put your cousin in a timeout chair. He already has enough problems to deal with and he, too, may be on a sharp learning curve for his new reality as a "virally enhanced" person. My advice is that you both do some background reading about HIV, HIV monitoring tests and HIV medications. A good place to start is on The Body's homepage under the Quick Links heading. There you will find sections entitled "Just Diagnosed," "HIV Medications," "HIV Monitoring Tests," "Inspiring Stories," etc.

Don't feel lost. Just get informed. Don't let your fears or frustrations affect your relationship with your cousin. What he needs most right now is your love and support, not probing questions that he may not yet know the answers to.

Good luck to you both. I'm here if you need me, OK?

Dr. Bob



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