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HIV/AIDS (cont.)

HIV/AIDS Prognosis

There is no cure for HIV infection. Before we had any treatment for the virus, people with AIDS lived only for a couple of years. Fortunately, medications have substantially improved the outlook and survival rates. Prevention efforts have reduced HIV infection in young children and have the potential to limit new infections in other populations.

  • Medications have extended the average life expectancy, and many people with HIV can expect to live for decades with proper treatment. An increasing number have a normal life expectancy if they adhere carefully to medication regimens.
  • Medications help the immune system recover and fight infections and prevent cancers from occurring. Eventually, the virus may become resistant to the available drugs, and the manifestations of AIDS may develop.
  • Drugs used to treat HIV and AIDS do not eliminate the infection. It is important for the person to remember that he or she is still contagious even when receiving effective treatment.
  • Intensive research efforts are being focused on developing new and better treatments. Although currently there is no promising vaccine, work continues on this front.

HIV Picture

Transmission electron micrographic image showing mature forms of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in a tissue sample.
This transmission electron micrographic image shows mature forms of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in a tissue sample. (SOURCE: CDC)

For More Information

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a good source for more information. Their online resource ( includes a fact sheet and information on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.


Padian, N.S., S.I. McCoy, S.S. Karim, et al. "HIV prevention transformed: the new prevention research agenda." Lancet 378.9787 July 16, 2011: 269-278.

Piot, P., M. Kazatchkine, M. Dybul, and J. Lob-Levyt. "AIDS: Lessons Learned and Myths Dispelled." Lancet 374.9685 July 18, 2009: 260-263.

Thompson, M.A., J.A. Aberg, P. Cahn, et al. "International AIDS Society-USA. Antiretroviral treatment of adult HIV infection: 2010 recommendations of the International AIDS Society-USA panel." JAMA. 304.3 July 21, 2010: 321-333.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "HIV/AIDS." June 14, 2010. <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/5/2015
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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease was first described in 1981 among 2 groups—one in San Francisco and the other in New York City.

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