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is hiv a death sentence

Jul 23, 2008

Dr. Bob,

Im sure many readers have this question: there seems to be a debate whether hiv is a death sentence in 2008 or whether it is possible for one who gets infected today in 2008 to live a normal life able to pursue a career have a family and so forth.

Please give ur input thanx. TJ

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello TJ,

This is actually a debate that can never be definitively settled for at least the next 50 or so years. We'll need that long to see what actually happens to people who get infected today in 2008. None of us has an infallible crystal ball to predict the future. What I can tell you today is that there has been truly remarkable progress in the development of new highly effective, potent, novel anti-HIV therapies over the recent years. These agents, which began with the introduction of protease inhibitors in mid-1996, have had a dramatic effect on both morbidity and mortality. More recently, new generations of protease inhibitors and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors have been introduced along with novel new therapies, such as integrase inhibitors and fusion inhibitors. These new agents, which have only recently become more widely available, appear to hold great promise. Will they allow newly infected patients to live a "normal life?" We can only hope. However, even if these agents allow newly infected folks to live a normal lifespan, I doubt cohabitation with HIV will ever allow for a completely "normal life." After all, being infected with a retrovirus is not normal by definition. Will HIVers be able to "pursue a career and have a family and so forth?" Absolutely. In fact, we already are doing that and have been for quite some time. Is HIV a death sentence? No. In fact, the only condition that I truly consider to be a death sentence is "being born." Absolutely no one who has ever been born will get out of here alive (with or without HIV!).

TJ, the take-home message was best summed up by Abraham Lincoln when he said: "And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."

Dr. Bob

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