October 23, 2017
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a person as having AIDS if she or he is living with HIV (HIV+) and has a CD4 cell count of 200 or less. The CDC has also developed a list of opportunistic infections (OIs), cancers, and conditions that are considered AIDS-defining conditions (see below). If you have HIV and one or more of these infections or conditions, you have a diagnosis of AIDS, no matter what your CD4 count is or how it changes in the future. This does not necessarily mean you are sick, or will get sick in the future. It is just the way the public health system counts the number of people who have had advanced HIV disease.
AIDS is also sometimes referred to as "stage 3 HIV." The CDC defines and uses "stages" of HIV mainly to keep track of the amount of HIV infection in the US and to plan for prevention and care on a population level. These definitions are not meant for health providers to use in making clinical decisions for individual patients. They are also not meant for people living with HIV to feel there is no hope if you have stage 3 HIV. People with an AIDS diagnosis can rebuild their immune system with the help of HIV drugs and live a long, healthy life.
The World Health Organization (WHO) uses a similar staging system and set of definitions. The WHO refers to AIDS as severe HIV and calls severe HIV or AIDS "stage 4." Nevertheless, it defines AIDS as occurring in people living with HIV who have CD4 counts of 200 or less or one of the AIDS-defining conditions listed below (same as CDC definition).
This list of AIDS-defining conditions comes from a government report and contains medical terms. If you have any questions, ask your health care provider or contact an educator at a local AIDS service organization (ASO). In the US, you can find an ASO by using POZ's Health Services Directory. To find services across the world, visit AIDSmap's e-atlas.
[Note from TheBody.com: This article was created by The Well Project, who last updated it on Jun. 18, 2017. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]
This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with TheBody.com to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from TheBody.com or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
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