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Healthy as a Horse: HIV since 1982
May 19, 2000

Hi,

I was diagnosed with HIV in 1982. I refused to take medications until 1996. My T-Cell count never went under 500 and my Viral Load is unmeasurable. I do not do drugs nor smoke. I exercise and drink a couple of beers. I have never changed my diet. I'm 38 and weight 165. Unfortunately I see friends that get sick right after they get HIV. Why haven't I gotten sick? Does it have to with my body metabolism or am I just lucky?

thanks

Response from Dr. Cohen

Yes, you are lucky! There may be a little more to it than that, but your good fortune is not in doubt. Most likely, you were born with an immune system that can fight off HIV better than the average person, so HIV doesn't progress as quickly as it might in most.

On average, it takes about a decade from the time of infection with HIV to the development of AIDS. During this time, most people will have progressively lower T-cells and higher viral loads. It sounds like you are one of the lucky minority who have slower progression. However, this doesn't mean you would never have symptoms from HIV -- probably, it would just take longer. In an even smaller number of folks, progression may be even slower or not at all. Usually, they would never or rarely have measurable virus in their blood. Genetic factors seem to explain much of this, though we obviously don't know the whole story...

You don't say if your viral load was ever detectable before you started meds, but I'm guessing it was. Maybe this is why you decided to start therapy in 1996. Now that you are on therapy, it is important to stick with it. Best of luck!



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