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AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection that occurs when the body’s immune system is badly damaged because of the virus.
In the US, most people with HIV do not develop AIDS because taking HIV medicine every day as prescribed stops the progression of the disease.
A person with HIV is considered to have progressed to AIDS when:
the number of their CD4 cells falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (200 cells / mm3). (In someone with a healthy immune system, CD4 counts are between 500 and 1,600 cells / mm3.) OR
they develop one or more opportunistic infections regardless of their CD4 count.
Without HIV medicine, people with AIDS typically survive about 3 years. Once someone has a dangerous opportunistic illness, life expectancy without treatment falls to about 1 year. HIV medicine can still help people at this stage of HIV infection, and it can even be lifesaving. But people who start ART soon after they get HIV experience more benefits — that’s why HIV testing is so important.
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