Is HIV a Death Sentence?


Hi, this is [PRESENTER NAME]. IÕm [PRESENTER ROLE]. Welcome to ÒIs HIV a Death Sentence?Ó


People sometimes refer to an HIV diagnosis as a death sentence. Others who are waiting for the result of an HIV test have even said that if their HIV test result is HIV positive, they plan to commit suicide.


ItÕs important to realize that an HIV diagnosis is NOT a death sentence. Early on in the HIV/AIDS epidemic, people sometimes viewed HIV is a death sentence because no treatments were available and patients often died. But even then, some people with HIV did not progress to clinical AIDS and are still alive today.


When a person is diagnosed with HIV, itÕs impossible to predict what the course of that person's HIV infection will be. There are many things that affect the course of the disease. Some people progress from HIV positive to clinical AIDS faster, others progress more slowly. Every personÕs immune system is different, as are the types of HIV. Some peopleÕs immune system can keep HIV in check longer than others, and some types of HIV can have a greater impact than others. 


ItÕs possible to talk about averages. For example, in the developed world, it usually takes about ten years after a person contracts HIV for them to develop clinical AIDS. But averages say little about what a particular person's experience will be. They may progress more slowly or more quickly than the average.


Even if they are HIV positive, people can make wise choices that will improve their chances of living a long, healthy life. If a person gets tested for HIV, learns they are HIV positive, and follows their doctorÕs instructions, including the use of AIDS medications where appropriate, they may be able to prevent HIV from progressing to clinical AIDS for years, decades, or possibly for the rest of their life.


People who are HIV positive can also improve their chances for a long, healthy life by taking care of their general health. Getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and exercising regularly may all help the body fight HIV.


So if youÕve been diagnosed with HIV, donÕt panic. HIV isnÕt a death sentence. It's more a matter of taking care of your health and following your doctorÕs instructions. There are many people who have diseases that require management and nonetheless live long, healthy, happy lives. You can too. If youÕve been diagnosed with HIV, ask your doctor what you should do and follow their instructions.


If you HAVENÕT been diagnosed with HIV and don't want to get tested because youÕre afraid the test might turn out to be HIV positive, talk with someone you trust and have them go with you when you get tested. Ignorance leaves you at risk; knowledge is power. If you donÕt know your HIV status, get tested. If you get tested and turn out to be HIV negative, you can take steps to make sure you stay HIV negative. On the other hand, if you get tested and turn out to be HIV positive, you can work with your doctor to do everything in your power to prevent HIV from progressing to clinical AIDS. If you donÕt get tested, are HIV positive, and wait until HIV progresses to clinical AIDS to get tested and treated, it may be harder to regain your full health than if you had sought testing, monitoring, and treatment earlier. So whoever you are, get tested.


Above all, donÕt make any rash decisions like committing suicide! If you are feeling depressed, ask your doctor about safe and effective treatments for clinical depression. If you are having suicidal thoughts, go to the nearest emergency room and ask to be evaluated. Thoughts of suicide are a medical emergency that requires immediate medical evaluation.


HIV is not a death sentence. New types of medications are being introduced all the time. If youÕre HIV negative, do everything in your power to stay HIV negative. But if youÕre HIV positive, work with your doctor to maintain your health and achieve a long, healthy, satisfying life. This is [PRESENTER NAME].



Script written by Eric Krock and Becky Kuhn, M.D.


This script was reviewed for accuracy and approved by Becky Kuhn, M.D. on July 30, 2011.




ÒHIV Infection Progresses To AIDS Quicker In Developing Countries,Ó Science Daily, 28 April 2004,