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HIV and the immune system
Disease progression
Monitoring immune health
Symptom observation
Lab studies and blood analysis
CD4 + Testing
Viral Load Testing
Summary: Testing
Intervention against HIV
General health maintenance
Supportive therapies
Antiviral Strategy
Immune modulating strategy
Opportunistic infection strategy
When to start treatment
Available treatments
The Bottom Line

Disease progression

HIV is a "spectrum" illness: all who are infected have the same disease, but there are many different stages to it. AIDS is the name given only to the most serious stage of HIV disease. In the least serious stage, people are HIV seropositive, meaning they have tested positive on the HIV antibody test but have no symptoms of illness. If left untreated, most of those who are infected generally progress along the spectrum toward AIDS.

HIV infection sometimes progresses slowly or sometimes quickly. Several long-term studies have researched the rate at which the disease progresses when left untreated. Most conclude that about 50 percent of HIV infected people progress to AIDS within 10 years of infection, and that about 75 percent reach AIDS by the 15th year. What all such studies conclude is that HIV is a progressive infection which leads to symptomatic illness in the majority of people over time. Children born with HIV and people infected through blood transfusion seem to get sick more quickly. Studies with women and people with hemophilia are inconclusive about the rate of progression. Why people progress at different rates is uncertain. It may be due to differences in the strain of virus a person acquires. Others feel it is influenced by genetic differences in people, and still others suspect that lifestyle factors make a difference.

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