HIV Stages, AIDS Defining Conditions and the Lazurus Effect

19 May

People may not be aware that the World Health Organization stages HIV infection in individuals. A similar concept which people are more familiar with would be cancer staging. Staging is a sort of “how bad is it” measuring stick for HIV infection.

Children with HIV have their own staging system as well. 

Some people mistakenly believe that a person who is HIV+ automatically has AIDS. The truth is those terms define two different conditions.

A person with HIV can be healthy with no detectable signs of HIV infection but they will always be HIV positive. A person can live many years with the HIV virus without developing AIDS.

AIDS is the most serious stage of HIV infection. It results from the destruction of the infected person’s immune system. 

There are infections that tend to be common with more advanced stages of HIV infection. These are called Opportunistic Infections (or OIs for short) because they tend to develop once the immune system has been compromised by the HIV virus.

According to the US CDC definition, a person has AIDS if they are infected with HIV and present with one of the following: A CD4+ T-cell count below 200 cells/µl (or a CD4+ T-cell percentage of total lymphocytes of less than 14%) OR have one or more of the following defining illnesses. (also called Opportunistic Infections)

For now, once a person is diagnosed with the AIDS label it is a permanent one. Though, a person doesn’t have to stay permanently in that sick state. There is something termed the Lazarus Effect. It is used to describe the remarkable improvement seen in AIDS sufferers once they begin treatment.

Many parents who have adopted HIV positive children will testify to the amazing changes their children underwent through proper medical treatment, with adequate nutrition, and in the care of loving parents. Children who were on the brink of death can bounce back and the levels of HIV in their bodies can become undetectable with medication. (Undetectable means that the amount of HIV virus present in the body is so low that medical tests cannot detect the virus. This doesn’t mean a person is cured of HIV; trace amounts will always remain in the system, but, when controlled properly with medication, the virus cannot inflict damage upon the immune system)


2 Responses to “HIV Stages, AIDS Defining Conditions and the Lazurus Effect”


  1. HIV Stages, AIDS Defining Conditions and the Lazurus Effect | - May 22, 2010

    […] Read more on the Precious and Positive Blog. […]

  2. Life Before Meds and Us « - July 27, 2010

    […] May, Jen posted about HIV stages.  When I read about the stages, I thought…I wonder what our daughter’s stage was […]

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