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Testing HIV Positive – Do I Have AIDS?
I tested HIV positive. What does this mean? Does it
mean I have AIDS?
A positive HIV
test result means that you are infected with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus),
the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Being infected
with HIV does not mean that you have AIDS right now. However, if left untreated,
HIV infection damages a person’s immune system and can progress to
AIDS is the most serious
stage of HIV infection. It results from the destruction of the infected person's
immune system. Your immune system is your body's defense system. Cells of your
immune system fight off infection and other diseases. If your immune system does
not work well, you are at risk for serious and life-threatening infections and
cancers. HIV attacks and destroys the disease-fighting cells of the immune
system, leaving the body with a weakened defense against infections and
cells does HIV attack?
are a type of white blood cell that fights infections. They are also called
CD4+ T cells or CD4 T lymphocytes. A CD4 count is the number of CD4
cells in a sample of blood. When HIV enters a person's CD4 cells, it uses the
cells to make copies of itself. This process destroys the CD4 cells, and the CD4
count goes down. As you lose CD4 cells, your immune system becomes weak. A
weakened immune system makes it harder for your body to fight infections and
How will I know if I have
AIDS is not a diagnosis you
can make yourself; it is diagnosed when the immune system is severely weakened.
If you are infected with HIV and your CD4 count drops below 200
cells/mm3, or if you develop an AIDS-defining condition (an illness
that is very unusual in someone who is not infected with HIV), you have
What are the AIDS-defining
In December 1992, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the most current list
of AIDS-defining conditions*.
The AIDS-defining conditions are:
People who are not infected with HIV may also
develop these diseases; this does not mean they have AIDS. To be diagnosed with
AIDS, a person must be infected with HIV.
- Cervical cancer (invasive)
- Coccidioidomycosis, Cryptococcosis, Cryptosporidiosis
- Cytomegalovirus disease
- Encephalopathy (HIV-related)
- Herpes simplex (severe infection)
- Kaposi's sarcoma
- Lymphoma (certain types)
- Mycobacterium avium complex
- Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia
- Pneumonia (recurrent)
- Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy
- Salmonella septicemia (recurrent)
- Toxoplasmosis of the brain
- Wasting syndrome
What is HIV treatment?
HIV treatment is the use of medications to keep an HIV
infected person healthy. Treatment can help people at all stages of HIV disease.
Although anti-HIV medications can treat HIV infection, they cannot cure HIV
infection. HIV treatment is complicated and must be tailored to you and your
The Fact Sheets in this series provide information about HIV
treatment, including when to start medication, which medications are used, how
to know if treatment is working, and what can be done if your treatment is not
Contact your doctor
or an AIDSinfo Health Information Specialist at 1-800-448-0440 or http://aidsinfo.nih.gov.
*CDC. 1993 Revised classification system for HIV
infection and expanded surveillance case definition for AIDS among adolescents
and adults. MMWR 1992;41 (no. RR-17).
This information is based on the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services' Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in HIV-Infected
Adults and Adolescents (available at http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/guidelines). Reviewed: