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What happens without the drugs?
Mar 28, 1997

My boyfriend is 21 and has been positive for about 4 years. For various reasons, including the effect they have had on his friends, he does not take any drugs other than the FORTEVAL vitamin supplements. His CD4 count was, today, 220. Also, he has developed a bad rash over his upper body which is refusing to clear up. By not taking the drugs, does he have any hope of fending off AIDS much longer? Can the t-cells recover again? What is the likely outcome?

Response from Dr. Cohen

It's never too late to start antiretroviral therapy. But the longer your boyfriend waits, the more opportunities he loses to improve his immune system and his prognosis. His CD4 count is already low, but not so low that it can't recover significantly. If he waits until it's down in the double-digits he might not be able to get as much immune function back.

He needs to wake up and read the newspapers. The death rate from AIDS has dropped all over the country. AIDS wards are closing in many hospitals because the beds are empty. Referrals to home care agencies and hospices have dropped. Opportunistic infections are down.

Your boyfriend has a choice. He can be a part of that trend, or he can live -- and die -- the way people did before we had anything effective to offer. It's not like we don't know what happens to people when you don't treat them -- we had years to watch that experiment back in early and mid '80s. The only way we know of to beat those odds is to take the drugs.

It may not seem very "natural" -- it may seem like you're filling your body with "toxic chemicals" -- but believe me, there's nothing more unnatural and toxic than HIV itself.



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