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bad death, horrible death, terrible death etc...
Jun 25, 2011

Hey Doctor Bob, I know this isn't really a question for this particular forum but how bad of a death is it to die from aids? I know I am not suppose to focus on it and I should be living every lovely moment to the fullest. However, I am always hearing it being called the most terrible death or the gasp of horror when someone finds out etc... Then of course there is the absolute terror people having of catching it. So, you have seen people die of it. How bad is it? I would really like a straight honest answer. Obviously, by looking at photos and hearing stories of the not so good old days it looks very unpleasant. I am not looking forward to be covered with lessions, being unable to breathe, weighing 10 pounds, having people approach me in a bio-hazard suit etc.. I guess I am just looking for some confirmation that yes, it is going to be hell and last several years before I finally kick it. Then I can just move on with my life. twisted I know. (and by the way, I am sorry for not doing spell check, I am too busy ranting) Then of course there are all those reassurances that say, as long as you keep your viral load under control you will be fine. well, um, yeah thats the whole thing isn't it. ( but that of course is a whole other rant for another pissy time.) Love ya, And please answer even if you don't really want to. ciao, Sammy

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello, Sammy.

Technically people don't die from AIDS per se. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), which, if untreated, slowly destroys the immune system. Once the immune system is "deficient," HIVers become susceptible to a wide range of opportunistic processes, such as infections and malignancies. It's those opportunistic illnesses that plant us six feet under. Consequently, death due to an HIV-related pneumonia (say, PCP) is not really any different than death due to a non-HIV-related pneumonia in an HIV neggie. Likewise for various cancers. That said, death should never be "horrible" or painful. With appropriate palliative and hospice care, anyone HIV positive or not should transition painlessly and peacefully to whatever comes next when our life on this wild and wacky planet is finished.

Finally Sammy, I very much agree with your comment that you should be focused on "living every lovely moment to the fullest," rather than worrying about the technicalities of your death. Your visions of AIDS deaths are indeed reflective of the bad old days and not of modern-day medicine. True, some HIV/AIDS deaths may not be completely pleasant, but they certainly don't have to be "terrible" either, OK? Besides just because you have HIV doesn't mean you'll die from HIV/AIDS. You just might get run over by that errant bus everyone is always talking about.

Dr. Bob



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